Academic articles are compositions published in academic journals discussing research related to a particular academic discipline. These are usually informative enough in explaining methods, results, or technologies in order to appeal to reviewers and acquire more citation making them reliable sources of information. Publication dates for journal articles are typically visible in the article abstract page. Some journals may not directly provide this information but it can be easily noticed in document footers and headers together with the abbreviated journal details and page numbers.
Some journal articles, however, do not apply the same format. The articles may only specify the year of publication. This might be a problem for prior art researchers especially if the article is published in the same year as the LDR. In this case, the exact publication date can be easily confirmed by referring to the details of the parent journal, the source website, or the preliminary pages of a printed copy. By identifying the volume in which the article was originally published, the journal website can be helpful in narrowing your search for the exact date.
A variety of search engines, journal databases and collections are available, many of which focus solely on a specific academic discipline. Search engines like Google Scholar can be a good platform to start a prior art search. Google Scholar provides a quick search for scholarly literature from a broad range of disciplines across the internet. Google Scholar also allows automatic sorting and filtering of search results based on relevance and publication date through modification of search parameters.
Specific journal databases are available online, but note that some may require a subscription fee. Examples of these databases are SciVerse-ScienceDirect and SpringerLink which offer a broad range of academic subjects ranging from the Physical Sciences to Social Sciences and Humanities. Some journals are more specialized such as IEEExplore Digital Library for electrical, electronics and communications technology, American Chemical Society (ACS) Journals, American Institute of Physics (AIP), and the Association for Computing Machinery Journals (ACM).
Even though some of these may require subscriptions to access full-text versions of the documents, do not hesitate to visit these sites. Searching on a paid site can help you identify technologies and journals that may require your focus. Even just reviewing an abstract can help to improve your search strategy.
Visit the Resources & Databases page for more examples of NPL search tools.
University Theses & Dissertations
Universities often make available the research of current and past students and professors, who often research the most innovative aspects of their industry. Theses and dissertations provide an in-depth discussion of academic research completed by graduate students as a requirement to earn their degrees. Bound theses and dissertations are usually stored in university library archives searchable through the library online catalogs with the thesis abstract and basic details included in the search returns. Some universities may offer full-text access online, but non-digitized printed work may require a visit to the library.
These research projects, both past and present, can also identify important authors and companies of interest. Uncovering a PhD. or master’s thesis in a particular technology can lead to a great piece of prior art on its own, but can also allow you to further develop your search. The bibliography, list of authors, and what they do can lead you to that all-important reference.
In addition to literature databases, many universities also provide resources to help improve your patent research skills. Schools like MIT, WPI, University of Michigan, and University of Illinois have sections on their library websites specifically designed for learning about patent research. Many of these pages have sections covering topics such as “where to search for patents,” “why do a patent search,” “how to do a patent search,” and multiple others. Resources like these can significantly improve your search strategy, especially if you get stuck at a dead end or start making the same search over and over again.