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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.

Mollon, P. (2000). The Recovered Memories Controversy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(1):167-169.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(1):167-169

The Recovered Memories Controversy

Phil Mollon

Dear Sir,

Attempts to throw light on the murky waters of the recovered memory debate so often end up obscuring more than they reveal. Moreover, theorising designed to insulate psychoanalysis from the controversy may do so at the expense of foreclosure of important elements—and may indeed offer a false solution.

I refer to Fonagy's guest editorial on ‘Memory and the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis’ (IJPA, 80:215-23) and Brenneis's review of my book Remembering Trauma. A Psychotherapist's Guide to Memory and Illusion (IJPA, 80:614-16).

Although helpful and clarifying in many ways, Fonagy's sophisticated theorising may actually function to eclipse certain issues in relation to psychoanalysis and memory. For example, he appears to confuse recovery of memory with the reconstruction of childhood development on the basis of transference—as in the following remarks:

‘Notwithstanding Kris's (1956) revolutionary reformulation of the psychoanalytic understanding of memory, the majority of ego-psychologists have continued to place emphasis on the therapeutic efficacy of reconstruction …’ (p. 215) and ‘it is hard to envision the formulation of an accurate reconstruction on the basis of a patient's distorted memories and symptoms’ (p. 216).

By implication, therefore, he suggests that those psychoanalysts who place emphasis on reconstruction of childhood are ‘recovered memory therapists’. But reconstruction is not about recovery of memory.

[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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