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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, April 25, 1917. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919, 195-197.

Ferenczi, S. (1917). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, April 25, 1917. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919 , 195-197

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

Sándor Ferenczi

Kurhaus Semmering Physikalisch-Dietätische Höhen-Kuranstalt

Tuesday, April 25, 1917

Dear Professor,

I can report the following about the condition of my health: Immediately after the trip to Vienna1 there was a marked relapse, especially the heart symptoms; new (intestinal) symptoms also appeared. For about two days I have been feeling somewhat as I did before the Viennese experiment, possibly a trace better. After another week I will be able to get myself a picture of the therapeutic effect of the X radiation (in me), which will also be decisive for the question of continuing this therapy.

My leave expires on May 10. I want in any case to stay in Vienna for at least two days, and am looking forward to seeing you again. I am now reading Goethe's Italian Journey2 and am happy when, in doing so, I am reminded of our trips together. Unfortunately, I can only get a proper image of very little—especially of the artworks we saw—a few images of landscape seem to have made the biggest impression—the evening on the Palatine—Selinunt, etc. One really must see Italy again, to become very familiar with her.—But it is very doubtful whether you will still be able to use me as a travel companion, unless the X rays perform miracles and restore to me my earlier capacity for movement.—

Frau G.'s hitherto not quite comprehensible behavior has finally found its explanation in the following: After repeated urging, she recently shared with me the fact that a long time ago she sent a letter to Elma in which she told her that I can't continue my life in this manner, that I should and will get married.

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