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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.

Freud, S. (1930). The Goethe Prize. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXI (1927-1931): The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents, and Other Works, 205-214.

Freud, S. (1930). [SEU205a1]The Goethe Prize. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXI (1927-1931): The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents, and Other Works, 205-214

[SEU205a1]The Goethe Prize Book Information Previous Up Next Language Translation

Sigmund Freud

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[SEU205a2]Editor's Note to "The Goethe Prize"

[SEU205a3](a) German Editions:

[SEU205a4]1930 Brief an Dr. Alfons Paquet Psychoanal. Bewegung, 2 (5) (Sept.–Oct.), 419.

[SEU205a5]1934 Brief an Dr. Alfons Paquet G.S., 12, 406-7.

[SEU205a6]1948 Brief an Dr. Alfons Paquet G.W., 14, 545-6.

[SEU205a7]1930 Ansprache im Frankfurter Goethe-Haus Psychoanal. Bewegung, 2 (5) (Sept.–Oct.), 421-6.

[SEU205a8]1934 Ansprache im Frankfurter Goethe-Haus G.S., 12, 408-11.

[SEU205a9]1948 Ansprache im Frankfurter Goethe-Haus G.W., 14, 547-50.

[SEU205a10]The present translation, the first into English, is by Angela Richards.

[SEU205a11]In 1927 the City of Frankfurt founded the ‘Goethe Prize’, which was to be awarded annually to ‘a personality of established achievement whose creative work is worthy of an honour dedicated to Goethe's memory’. The first three awards were made to Stefan George the poet, Albert Schweitzer the musician and medical missionary, and Leopold Ziegler the philosophical writer. The amount of the prize was 10,000 Reichsmark—worth at that time about £500 or $2500.

[SEU205a12]At the suggestion of Alfons Paquet, a well-known man of letters who was Secretary to the Trustees of the Fund, it was decided to award the 1930 prize to Freud. This was announced to Freud (who was on holiday at the time in the Salzkammergut) in a letter from Paquet dated July 26, 1930 (printed in the Psychoanalytische Bewegung, 2, 417-18), to which Freud replied on August 3.

[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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