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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, July 13, 1917. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919, 228-229.

Ferenczi, S. (1917). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, July 13, 1917. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919 , 228-229

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, July 13, 1917 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

Csorbató, July 13, 1917

Dear friend,

We confirm with thanks the receipt of a shipment of bread and cheese from Fräulein Ilona Berger. The bread came at the psychological moment in which the hotel had run out of bread for the first time; to be sure, only for the shortest time.—

I had to interrupt the letter because there came one of those terrible gusts of wind which one can't withstand. Unfortunately, we are having miserable weather, dense fog, or constant rain or storm, and a coldness of 7° C, in which no feeling of summer or joy in nature arises. Let us hope this isn't regular Tatra weather. It could be so very beautiful at times.

Frau G. visited us again on Wednesday, July 11, this time in the company of her sister and unfortunately also old Frau von Freund, so that I was also unable to exchange a word with her. We have the intention of returning the visit in Lomnitz as soon as possible, but in these last few days or today it has been impossible.

Sachs is supposed to arrive today, but there were difficulties with his lodging. Until the 24th he could, of course, have had the room that I rented for you from the 18th. I don't know what to do with him until the 18th. Perhaps Garai will advise.

A [female] admirer and patient of Jung's has sent me his last little book about the ucs. processes,1 so I will correct my judgment about the noble one! But that can wait. I got an indifferent letter from Pfister, who just happens to be criticizing this book ungraciously, and says in passing that he is being investigated on account of his ΨA—a heroic phrase, in the bargain; but I don't think much of it.

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