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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.

Graber (1928). Maeder, Alphonse, Dr. med.: Psychoanalyse und Synthese. Der Wiederaufbau der Persönlichkeit neben ihrer Analyse. Verlag Fried. Böhn. Schwerin i. Mecklenburg, 1927.. Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 14(1):131.

(1928). Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 14(1):131

Maeder, Alphonse, Dr. med.: Psychoanalyse und Synthese. Der Wiederaufbau der Persönlichkeit neben ihrer Analyse. Verlag Fried. Böhn. Schwerin i. Mecklenburg, 1927.

Review by:

Maeder sucht mit seinem Referate, das er vor der dritten Fachkonferenz für Ärzte und Theologen (2.—4. Oktober 1926 in Berlin Spandau) hielt, dem „Amoralismus Freuds entgegenzusteuern. Maeder ist einer jener typischen Fälle, dem es in der Tiefe unheimlich wurde und der den frühzeitigen „Auftrieb erlitt“. Vervollkommnung, Synthese, Religion sind die Parolen. Die Synthese wird aber nicht vom Arzt durchgeführt. Für Maeder ist der „Wiederaufbau ein spontaner, selbsttätiger Prozeß, der am Patienten geschieht. Er ist der Ausdruck der schöpferischen Kräfte des Lebens selbst“. Mit diesen Sätzen dokumentiert zwar Maeder, daß er eigentlich Analytiker von reinstem Freudschem Schlage geblieben ist, und man fragt sich, — wie oft schon, — wozu das große Lamento um die Synthese erhoben wird.


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