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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.

Alexander, F. (1934). Review of Freud's “New Series of Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis”. Psychoanal. Rev., 21(3):336-346.

(1934). Psychoanalytic Review, 21(3):336-346

Special Review

Review of Freud's “New Series of Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis”

Review by:
Franz Alexander

This New Series of Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, in contradistinction to the previous series, have never been delivered in a lecture room. Freud prefers to use the lecture form because it allows the fullest expression of his characteristics as stylist and thinker. The dynamic quality of his diction seems to demand the spoken word. His writing approaches the Platonic dialogue, in that he anticipates the reader's doubts, answers them, and proceeds in his argument to cover a steadily increasing terrain with the help of irrefutable logic and illuminating perspectives. Just as in his previous writing, he never leaves the reader in doubt when he considers his contention to be problematic, and has the courage, after thirty years of work in this field, to speak of the theory of the instinctual life as the “mythological “part of psychoanalysis.

A new book by Freud today arouses the interest, not only of specialists in this field, but of the whole intellectual world. This widespread interest, we feel, is, for Freud, not only a source of satisfaction but also a ‘burden of heavy responsibility. He feels he ought to inform people in a somewhat systematic way of the progress of the last fifteen years since the first Introductory Lectures appeared. To whom does Freud speak in this new book? We cannot help but feel that he speaks to a most heterogeneous audience, an extremely difficult task for any author.

In the first chapter, “Revision of the Theory of Dreams,” Freud proudly declares that the dream theory represents a piece of scientific accomplishment to which fifteen years of study have added little and that there are no essential features which he feels ought to be altered. The concept that the dream has the dynamical function of protecting sleep from disturbing stimuli, i.e., from the pressure of unfulfilled wishes, through their hallucinatory satisfaction, is a formulation which stands on the solid basis of accumulated observations.

[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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