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Tip: Understanding Rank

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

When you do a search, you can sort the results bibliographically alphabetical or by “rank”. What is Rank?

Rank refers to the search engine’s “best guess” as to the relevance of the result to the search you specified. The exact method of ranking used varies a bit depending on the search. In its most basic level, when you specify a single search term, rank looks at the density of the matches for the word in the document, and how close to the beginning of the document they appear as a measure of importance to the paper’s topic. The documents with the most matches and where the term is deemed to have the most importance, have the highest “relevance” and are ranked first (presented first).

When you specify more than one term to appear anywhere in the article, the method is similar, but the search engine looks at how many of those terms appear, and how close together they appear, how close to the beginning of the document, and can even take into account the relative rarity of the search terms and their density in the retrieved file, where infrequent terms count more heavily than common terms.

To see a simple example of this, search for the words (not the phrase, so no quotes):

unconscious communications

Look at the density of matches in each document on the first page of the hits. Then go to the last page of matched documents, and observe the density of matches within the documents.

A more complex search illustrates this nicely with a single page and only 15 matches:

counter*tr* w/25 “liv* out” w/25 enact*

There are a lot of word forms and variants of the words (due to the * wildcards) above that can match, but the proximity (w/25) clause limits the potential for matching. What’s interesting here though is how easily you can see the match density decrease as you view down the short list.

The end result of selecting order by rank is that the search engine’s best “guess” as to which articles are more relevant appear higher on the list than less relevant articles.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Ferenczi, S. (1933). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, March 29, 1933. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 447-448.

Ferenczi, S. (1933). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, March 29, 1933. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 447-448

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, March 29, 1933 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

International Psychoanalytical Association Internationale Psychoanalytische Vereinigung Association Psychanalytique Internationale1

Budapest, March 29, 1933

Dear Professor,

Two current factors are pressing me today finally to interrupt my childish sulking and to resume contact with you as if nothing had happened. That does not intend to, nor should it, mean that I am not willing to talk through together, at the next opportunity, the chronically accumulated motives of the exaggerated mode of reaction bet[ween]2 us. But first, I would only like to get into the current motives of my being pressed.— Perhaps you heard from Dr. Lévy that, in the last few weeks, I experienced a relapse in the symptoms of my illness (anemia perniciosa)— but this time less in the worsening of the condition of my blood than in a kind of nervous breakdown, from which I am only slowly recovering. The other, and last, motive was the letter from our friend Ophuijsen about the situation in Berlin, about Eitingon's attitude— which is similar to mine— and the measures which should be taken in such exigency. As little as I value Dr. Ophuijsen's mental acuity in general, I must admit that this time his sense of the reality made a keen impression on me, and in fact my pessimistic impression also extended to the situation in Vienna and, finally, also to that in Budapest.

Short and sweet: I advise you to make use of the time of the not yet immediately dangerously threatening situation and, with a few patients and your daughter Anna, to go to a more secure country, perhaps England. Dr.

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