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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.

Luzes, P. (1999). A Letter from Portugal. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(2):621-626.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(2):621-626

A Letter from Portugal

Pedro Luzes

It is generally agreed that the origins of psychoanalysis were influenced by Freud's observation of experiments in hypnosis carried out on hysterical patients in Vienna and Paris. If that is the case (and it is), Abbé Faria, a Portuguese priest and scholar and a pioneer of hypnotism in France, may be said to have made a great contribution to the development of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.


José Custódio de Faria (1776-1819) was born in Goa and became a priest after studying theology in Lisbon and Rome. He was living in Paris during the troubled times of the French Revolution and the Empire, and it was there that he became a disciple of the magnetists, as hypnotists were then called. A disciple of Mesmer and Puységur, Faria is mentioned by Chateaubriand in his Memoirs from beyond the Grave. Like many others in the history of hypnotism, he gave public demonstrations, experiments that often drew unfavorable reactions. He came under attack in the satirical Paris newspapers and was ridiculed in a vaudeville show. This drove him into premature retirement, where he wrote a book (in French) explaining his theories and their practical applications.

Of the representatives of the new therapy, Abbé Faria was the first to abandon the erroneous interpretations of hypnosis that were propagated by the masters: the theory of magnetic fluid defended by Mesmer and the theory of the hypnotist's will defended by Puységur. Faria believed that magnetism was a natural phenomenon resulting from predisposing causes (an impressionable disposition), occasional causes (the removal of external stimuli), and immediate causes (the command “Sleep!”). The importance of his theory and of his book—De la Cause du Sommeillucide—was recognized by authors like Bernheim, Liébault, and Janet. His name is mentioned in all modern works on the history of hypnotism.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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