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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.

Reiss (1952). Grassi, Ernesto und von Uexküll, Thure: Von Ursprung und Grenzen der Geisteswissenschaften und Naturwissenschaften. (Sammlung Überlieferung und Auftrag. Reihe Studia Humanitatis. Band 1), Leo-Lehnen-Verlag GmbH., München, 1950. 252S.. Psyche – Z Psychoanal., 5(12):202-204.

(1952). Psyche – Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 5(12):202-204

Grassi, Ernesto und von Uexküll, Thure: Von Ursprung und Grenzen der Geisteswissenschaften und Naturwissenschaften. (Sammlung Überlieferung und Auftrag. Reihe Studia Humanitatis. Band 1), Leo-Lehnen-Verlag GmbH., München, 1950. 252S.

Review by:
  Reiss

„Die Reihe Studia humanitatis will versuchen, den Reichtum und die ursprüngliche Weite zurückzugewinnen, die der Begriff der humanistischen Studien im Zeitalter des Humanismus besaß.“ In diesem Sinne legt uns Grassi in der 1. Veröffentlichung dieser Reihe an der Hand humanistischer Schriften deren Herausarbeitung der Begriffe von Geisteswissenschaften und Naturwissenschaften dar und zeigt, wie schon damals das philosophische Problem ihres Ursprunges im Vordergrund des Interesses stand, wobei den Geisteswissenschaften der Vorrang eingeräumt wurde, weil es dem Humanismus um den Menschen als Ganzes und um seine Bildung ging. Da sich Bildung beim Menschen im Gegensatz zu den Tieren nicht spontan vollziehen kann, so muß er sich mit seiner Welt auseinandersetzen und bestimmte Fragen innerhalb gewisser Grenzen zu beantworten versuchen. Hierin wurzeln die Einzelwissenschaften, die die Naturwissenschaften darstellen. Doch wahre Erkenntnis bedeutet den Humanisten erst Orientierung des Menschen in seiner Gesamtheit, wie es nur die Geisteswissenschaften vermögen.

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