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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.

Faergeman, P.M. (1956). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 25:462-465.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:462-465

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Poul M. Faergeman


The author discusses the emergence and establishment of the perceptual system, the relationship between his propositions concerning this problem, the formulations of Isakower regarding predormescent phenomena, and those of Lewin regarding the dream screen and the blank dream. At birth the infant responds primarily to sensations originating within his body and is protected against outside perceptions by a high stimulus barrier. Contact perception precedes distance (e.g. visual) perception. The first organ to perceive anything is the oral cavity; this happens when the nipple is introduced into the mouth and the jet of milk relieves the unpleasure of thirst. The senses involved in this first oral perception are the sense of taste, of temperature, of smell, of pain, and the deep sensibility in the act of deglutition. The oral cavity is a perceptual zone which includes within itself the characteristics of both internal and external perception; thus it fulfils the function of a bridge between the two. All perception is initiated by affects, the sources of which are the physiological needs. The needs produce the tension that is experienced as unpleasure. The gratification of need leads to the reduction of tension and quiescence. This dynamic process activates the first intraoral perceptions which take place on the dividing line between intrapsychic perception and the environment. The fact that the first perceptions are intraoral has important consequences. The task of distinguishing between inside and outside has its inception here. This faculty will later lead to the separation of the self from the nonself and to the separation of the self from objects; finally, it will lead to the distinction between what is accepted and what is rejected.

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