Text Based Searching


Text based searching is the very basic form of patent search. A text based search starts with identifying keywords based on the invention disclosure and using a number of such keywords in a search engine in various forms and combinations. It is important to have a strategic approach to text searching instead of haphazardly entering keywords into a search engine. The results of an initial text based search may include documents showing several solutions to the same problem as well as documents showing similar inventions intended for completely different problems. Basically, then it is a game of broadening and narrowing the search strategy to limit the result set which could be analyzed for the purpose of the search.

Text based searching should use systematic text query progression. Text query progression is a way of attacking the subject matter of a search from several directions:

  • Starting with a broad approach of using only essential keywords related to the structure or function, and then combine text queries gradually to narrow it down.
  • Starting with a narrow approach of including all the elements of problem, structure, and function combined, and then later subtract keyword groupings to broaden the search.

The text based search strategy take your research question and break it into keywords or phrases. Keywords and phrases are very important to your search. Sometimes it is best to think around a topic as much as possible to identify useful terms. Many people find it useful to create a chart with the keywords and any synonyms you can think of or similar terms.

The searcher may also truncate words or insert wildcards to expand the search. Truncate means finding the base of a word to find any words that begin with that base: bed* = bed, bedding, bedroom, etc. Wildcards are symbols you use to replace one or more characters in a word: Wom?n = woman or women. Some terms are spelt differently in US and UK English, so it is best to include both spellings for such terms. Text based searching further uses Boolean logic to put terms together in a search by using AND, OR, NOT.

  • AND: “AND” operator narrows search by making sure that all your terms show up in an article.  For example: engine AND fuel* AND tank* would bring back articles that include all the terms and relate to fuel tank of an engine, including all the truncated forms of the words.
  • OR: “OR” operator broadens search by allowing any of the terms to show up in an article and is also useful for linking together synonyms. For example: (gas OR diesel) would bring back articles which mentions either gas or alternatively diesel.
  • NOT: “NOT” operator narrows the search by eliminating a term from the search. For example: (gas NOT diesel) would only bring back articles on gas and not including the term diesel.

If you are using terms and synonyms together in a database or Internet search, you should preferably put these in brackets. For example, (engine OR motor* OR power*) AND (fuel* OR gas*) AND (tank OR stor* OR compartment). Further, phrases may be used if one is looking for a specific phrase or title. The searcher needs to put the phrase in quotation marks. For example: “a diesel engine.”


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