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The following section contains subjective comments about the system that represent our editor's opinions, and should not be viewed as fact. Editor's opinions include positive and negative judgments about the product written in consideration of wider context, including related products and the industry at large. Further subjective information is presented in clearly labeled "Editor's Notes" throughout the report. For the purpose of this article, the term "citation" refers to a patent citation and "record" refers to a journal article extract containing bibliographical information. To get more information on how we use the term citation, please see the citations article.

Inspec is a well respected bibliographic source of literature and patents related to the fields of physics, electronics, computing, mechanical engineering, control systems and business automation. A large percentage of the database is composed of about 5,000 journals and serials[1], and thus the majority of the use for Inspec is as a non-patent literature source for selective journals in the engineering fields it covers. There is also coverage for US and UK published patents between 1968 and 1976.

A main benefit of Inspec is the presence of journals dating back as far as 1898 in the case of the Science Abstracts Journals. The Science Abstracts were print publications started in 1898 as a venture by the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) and the Physical Society of London. The Science Abstracts started as one source of abstracting for multiple topics, but eventually were subdivided into the current A, B, and C disciplines of Inspec. Discipline (or Subfile) A is Physics, discipline B is Electrical Engineering & Electronics, and discipline C is Computers & Control. The IEE is a major component of what is now known as the Institution of Engineering and Technology, which is the current producer of Inspec. Inspec includes the records from the Science Abstracts Journals due to this organizational heritage.

Inspec is sometimes delineated into two files: Inspec and Inspec Archive[2]. The Inspec file consists of the records from 1969 to present, while the Inspec Archive consists of the Science Abstracts Journals from 1898 to 1968. Depending on the access service used to get to Inspec, these delineations are available either separately, together, or sometimes only the 1969-date version is available. All records are abstracted by the producers of the database in English if author published abstracts are not available. This abstracting includes around 12% of the database which is in another language besides English, adding value to the available information. The Inspec Archive is manually re-keyed and includes tables, graphs, and figures from the original source documents in some cases. Inspec Archive can be a valuable source of hard to find information on pre-1968 technology, and users can be assured of the accuracy of that information since it is manually re-keyed.

In addition to abstracting, a field is created for each file using controlled vocabulary from the Inspec Thesaurus, a standardizing procedure that assists the user by consolidating the many different terms that are trying to convey the same concept. Using the controlled vocabulary, searchers are more easily able to hone their search in using the agreed upon terms.

The producers of Inspec take information for the file from print, web, and electronic sources within the scope of the outlined subject areas which are at the discretion of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Newly added publications are not retroactively archived into Inspec. This editorial policy is shaped by the position of IET within the greater industry, which is described in the Producer Strength section.

Additionally, Inspec includes added chemical substance indexing and numerical terms indexing from January 1987 onwards, and astronomical object indexing terms from January 1995 onwards, which gives searchers more field related controlled vocabulary searching than was previously available with Inspec. Indexers are also given the discretion to include any additional keyword terms into a separate “uncontrolled vocabulary” field, in an attempt to categorize emerging technologies prior to terms becoming standardized within the industry (and consequently added to the Inspec Thesaurus).


  1. "Inspec and Inspec Archive." Engineering Information website, Accessed on June 8, 2011.
  2. "INSPEC Product Sheet on Ovid." Ovid website, Accessed on June 8, 2011.
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