Resources & Databases
The resources used in your search will directly relate to and depend on several other aspects of the Study such as the Study technology, type of research, type of literature, stage of the Study, and your level of experience.
By incorporating each of these in your search strategy and understanding the context of the Study, you will be able to identify the databases and resources that may contain the most relevant references. While some general resources may be helpful, your main goal in working with the available resources is to determine which one holds the path to the winning reference.
As with your overall search strategy, it’s best to start with broad resources. These can help you get a better sense of the technology and provide you with stronger background knowledge to improve your search strategy. Once you have a better idea of what you’re looking for, you can utilize more specific research tools to focus your search.
Broad Resources to Start Your Search:
- General Search Engines – Use search engines such as Google or Bing to learn about the content available around the Study technology. These initial results can help guide the direction of your research later in the process.
- Technology History – Learning how a particular invention came to be and how it has grown can help you find prior inventions that use the same technology. Technological developments can indicate important areas of the technology to focus on when reviewing your final references.
Narrow Resources to Focus Your Search:
- Technical Databases – If you know that a Study is focused on a particular industry like medicine or electrical engineering, use databases such as PubMed, IEEE Xplore, or SciVerse to find specific documents. The more you know about the industry, the stronger your search queries and the better your results.
- Company Websites – Consider companies that specialize in similar technologies or products like the one in the Study. Visit their websites to see what other inventions or products they offer that could drive your search in a new direction.
- Experts and Industry Professionals – Consulting with others who may have knowledge of or experience in the field in question can lead to rare articles, thesis papers, or even reviews about the product you’re researching. Never hesitate to utilize any personal connections or colleagues that may have relevant experience.
Patent Search Tools
While patents are not the most valuable type of literature, they can still be extremely relevant. Google Patents is one of the most widely-known tools for searching US and European patents, among others. Google Patents allows backward and forward citation searching because it lists down all US patents cited within the document as well as all US patents citing the document. However, this citation searching is limited to US patent documents only.
The more interesting feature of Google Patents is something that was recently added – the Find Prior Art button. Upon clicking the Find Prior Art button, the tool will automatically find prior art related to the patent being viewed and its results include those that come from Google Scholar and Google Books. These may not be the most relevant references, but they still provide a fantastic starting point for your background research.
PatentLens and FreePatentsOnline are two free databases that allow full text search of patent documents. The user interfaces of these two databases are nearly identical to subscription type patent search databases. The advantage of using these two databases over government databases is that it allows one search tool for multiple authorities. The authorities for these databases include the United States, EPO, PCT / WIPO, Australia, Germany, and Japan.
The EPO also provides access to a wide range of patents through its Esp@cenet database, including a diverse patent collection with materials from 90+ countries. The search interface is similar to FreePatentsOnline, but keyword search is limited to the title and abstract of the document only. It is still a popular database because it allows searching for worldwide patents not freely available in other databases and may be a good source for worldwide PDF patent documents. Esp@cenet is translated into multiple languages and has teamed up with Google to provide machine translations for the patent references.
As keyword searching may be limited for Esp@cenet, it makes up for this limitation through the Cited Documents link and Citing Documents links, which allow for backward and forward citation searching. Another notable feature is the list of family members of a patent. This list can show a possible earlier publication than the one currently viewed.
You may also want to check these other resources:
- United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) – Patent Full-Text and Full-Page Image Databases
- European Patent Office (EPO) – European Classification System Search
- German Patent Office
- United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO)
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- IP Australia – Australian Patent Office
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
- Industrial Property Digital Library (IPDL) – IP Gazettes of the JPO
- FDA Orange Book – Patent information for drugs sold in the US
- Patents.com – Free US and EP Patent searching
- Fresh Patents – The latest US patent applications
Resources on a Subscription Basis
NPL Search Tools
NPL is a much more unique and valuable type of literature than patents, and as such, the databases are equally unique and diverse. Among the free non-patent literature research tools, Google Books and Google Scholar are still the strongest search engines for broad prior art research. In some situations, Google Books contain previews of books where some prior art may be found. Old magazines such as Info World and Network World have been digitized and are text searchable through Google Books.
Google Scholar, on the other hand, focuses on technical papers, thesis, and dissertations. The downside of Google Scholar is that not all technical papers have a full text version. Google Scholar may still refer Researcher to a paid database to download the full document. These tools can be a great way to identify relevant databases that specialize in the area of technology, allowing you to then narrow your search.
Among our favorite tools to use for narrowing searches is the Resource Finder from Intellogist. The Resource Finder generates a list of relevant databases based on the technology of your search. Within that list, Intellogist provides two types of results. First, they provide direct links to the databases, publications and websites that match your search. More importantly, they provide links to an Intellogist Report on each database. Intellogist Reports are wiki-style reviews of each resource, including its strengths, weaknesses, and valuable tips.
Check other Featured Resources that we have highlighted on our blog. The following are examples of other databases and resources you may consult:
- IBM Journal of Research and Development – registration required
- Tech Web – Technology encyclopedia
- Japan Science and Technology Information Aggregator, Electronic (J-STAGE)
- BioFind – account needed
- MatWeb – Searchable material properties
- PubMed – Biomedical articles from Medline and life science journals.
- Medline – National Library of Medicine
- ChemSpider Allows search for chemical images
- NIST Chem Web Book – chemical structure and property database
- ZDNet – Free technical white papers
- GBIF – Global Biodiversity Information Facility
Resources on a Subscription Basis