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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.

Friedlander, K. (1943). Charlotte Brontë: a Study of a Masochistic Character. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:45-53.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:45-53

Charlotte Brontë: a Study of a Masochistic Character

Kate Friedlander

On entering the Brontë saga, we move at once upon highly emotional ground. It has struck me as significant that my attempts to discuss Jane Eyre with English friends immediately elicited the question: did I not know of the tragedy of the author's life? A great many biographers are attracted by Charlotte Brontë's personality, much more than by her work. Although at the present time many libraries are inaccessible, I have nevertheless been able to acquire sixteen biographies, some of them consisting of several volumes. In comparison with this it is interesting to note that during the investigation only five biographies of Dickens came to my notice, though there are plenty of books on his work. This disparity is in itself a point of psychological interest, but much more so when one finds in these biographies ardent disputes about facts which could easily be objectively ascertained. One theme especially is made the centre of attention: most authors agree that Charlotte Brontë suffered and bore her lot with admirable patience and piety; but there are disputes about what caused her suffering, whether it was fate, the treatment she received from her harsh and cruel father, the loneliness and bleakness of the West Riding landscape, the sadism of her teachers or the horrible life she had to lead in her situations as a governess. Some of her biographers go so far as to hint at the possible loss of some masterpieces, unwritten under these conditions.

We owe the first biography to Mrs.

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