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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.

Campbell, D. (1987). The Essentials of Psycho-Analysis: By Sigmund Freud. Selected and introduced by Anna Freud. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. 1986. Pp. 598.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 68:425-430.

(1987). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 68:425-430

The Essentials of Psycho-Analysis: By Sigmund Freud. Selected and introduced by Anna Freud. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. 1986. Pp. 598.

Review by:
Donald Campbell

Four years before her death, Anna Freud selected 21 of her father's papers and organized them into what she calls 'an introductory course of study' entitled The Essentials of Psychoanalysis. She has also written perceptive introductions to each of the ten chapter headings. Her aim is to present the essentials of Freud's metapsychology and for this reason his case studies and papers on technique and training are not included in this collection. It is a work befitting an Antigone who continues to speak for her father.

As Clifford Yorke states in his illuminating foreword, Anna Freud remained aware throughout her life that there were 'certain irreducible concepts, the abnegation of which impoverished the entire discipline and rendered its arguments ineffective. It is those basic principles which are to be found in the present volume' (p. ix).

Anna Freud begins this collection by acknowledging the difficulty in, 'Introducing lay persons—whether students or readers with no prior knowledge—to the world of psycho-analytic thought'. She is aided in overcoming this difficulty by her father's proclivity for writing with the student in mind. Strachey (1963) remarked that 'lectures as a method of putting forward his opinions evidently appealed to Freud, but only subject to a particular condition: he must be in a lively contact with his real or supposed audience' (p. 6). Nowhere in Freud's writing is there a more lively contact with his audience than in the paper Anna Freud chose to begin this collection: 'The question of lay analysis' (1926) which is written as a dialogue between Freud and an imaginary Impartial Person.

[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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