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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.

Ferenczi, S. (1917). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, January 25, 1917. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919, 176-178.

Ferenczi, S. (1917). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, January 25, 1917. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919 , 176-178

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, January 25, 1917 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

Budapest, January 25, 1917

Dear Professor,

Only now am I in a position to explain to you my long silence, perhaps also something about my strange behavior in other respects. All that was the emanation of a physical ailment. For some time I have been ascertaining in myself the appearance of irregular increases in temperature (up to 37.3-4°). Today I decided to have an X ray taken. It turned out that the apices of my lungs, the right one especially, are less transparent. Even with a stethoscope Dr. Lévy was able to confirm a “catarrh” on the right.

My great tendency toward fatigue, my weight loss thus find an explanation. Even the “Basedow” must have been a “pseudo-” or a secondary condition. The process must have been in existence for a long time (if I interpret my memories correctly).

Dr. Lévy disclaims the tubercular nature of the illness, but he is evidently doing that not as an internist but as a psychotherapist.

I am in telegraphic contact with the spas of the Tátra. Dr. Lévy is still advising a stay in the high mountains. But possibly I will visit you in Vienna before I go to the mountains.

Although we are planning to displace the border between the psychic and the physical downwards, we will in this case no doubt probably give preference to the physiological. Although, as you know, being ill as a motive for fidelity to Frau G. is also psychically significant.

I have found several of the books you recommended in the local library of natural science (also in the university library) and have borrowed some of them.

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