Report:Thomson Innovation/Search History Interface/Managing Search Histories
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Managing Search Histories
There are two search history management screens in Innovation: The first is under the Search Tab, and the second is under the Saved Work tab, in the main menu that always appears to the left of the page.
The Active Search History
The first Search History page, under the search tab, is where the active search history may be found. Because search histories can be preserved even after the user has started a new session, it is possible that this search history may contain strings from many days back, if they were not saved during earlier sessions. The history in the example below contains 132 queries (within the patent collection) conducted over a period of multiple weeks, which were not otherwise saved; it is evident that the active search history can serve as a kind of catch-all. According to the help file, you can choose to have your search history retained indefinitely or only for the current session. Alternatively, you can choose to make this decision anew each time you log in via the Retain Search History and Marked List popup. These choices are on the General page in your Preferences.
Note: Despite the fact that old strings can reside in the search history, they are NOT time stamped with the original time of execution, and new publications may have been added to the database since the time they were run. Innovation deals with this potentially misleading situation by forcing the user to re-run a query whenever he/she wishes to see the original results set. (Of course, if the result set was originally saved as a work file, it can still be viewed as originally saved. See the Saving Results section for more information).
The symbols on the search history page allow users to take additional action. The Plus sign in the figure above allows users to expand the full query text (when it appears next to the section header, it expands all queries).
Next to a search query, additional icons are displayed. In the figure above, the pencil allows users to edit and re-run the query (creating a new search string without overwriting the old one), the blue arrows re-run a particular query, the “floppy disk” allows users to save that individual query, the “alarm bell” allows users to set an alert (see the Alerts section, below, for more information), the red “X” deletes an individual query, and the note icon allows the user to add an annotation or save an attachment to the search history (or view annotations/attachments that already exist).
In addition to saving individual queries, the entire search history may also be saved from this page. Selecting this option opens the Save Search History dialog window, where the name, description, and additional share and save options must be defined. Users may save the search history to a personal or public folder, or share the search history to the Shared Work Inbox (with only selected recipients, if desired).
As discussed in the Saving Results section, the “saved work” Innovation user interface is designed to include a directory with many “folders,” both system and personal, where saved information is stored. When saving a search history, it will automatically be saved to the system folder (“Search Histories”), but the user also has the option to copy it into a new or previously defined personal or public folder as well. From the save dialog, users may choose to “browse” their directory for an appropriate folder.
Users may also save the full active search history as a text (.txt) file, by selecting the "Save As Text File" option from the top horizontal menu on the interface (beside the "Save Search History" option).
Note: Once a search history has been saved, it is not automatically erased from the active history page. Clearing the active history page is accomplished by clicking a button on the top horizontal menu of that interface (beside the "Save as Text File" option), so that the user may start a new search project with a clean slate.
Overall, the search history functionality in Innovation is disappointing, because it is not as flexible as the functionality offered by MicroPatent PatentWeb.
One flaw in the active search history design is that, although queries may be saved as individual "saved searches" from the search form, Innovation does not allow queries to be placed into a saved search history from the search form. As a consequence, because only one active search history can be open at a time, any necessary deviation from a current project would force users to stop and save their work before starting a new project, or cause a jumbled search history where unrelated strings have to be deleted or saved separately.
Some users may also find it inconvenient that the system forces users to treat the active search history as a whole, or save queries string by string, with no in-between option. MicroPatent allows users to select various strings from a list, and delete, save as a new search history, or append them to an existing search history. Overall, the ability to “append” search history records to a previously created search history is really lacking in Innovation. As the system works now, if a user wished to run some new strings related to an already saved search history, the only option would be to save them as a new, second search history.
The Saved History Folder
To access a saved search history, users must open the Search Histories folder under the Saved Work section (or any other personal/public folder where the search history is saved). Links to these locations can be found under the Saved Work tab. Choosing the “Search Histories” hyperlink navigates the user to the Histories folder in the Saved Work Inbox-style interface, described in detail in the Saving Results section. The Search Histories folder will display all the saved histories that have been placed into it.
Underneath the list of saved histories, there is a panel displaying information about the selected item from the list. As discussed in the Saving Results section, this is officially called the File Properties Panel, and it displays information about each saved history, such as the “owner” of the history (the person who created it), the date created, date last modified, number of queries, shared status, and the user-defined description of the search history (which might include some information about the goals of the search, for example). The File Properties panel also contains a few options that appear in the right hand corner: the information in the File Properties panel can be edited (via the pencil icon), annotations or attachments to the file can be added (using the orange page icon), and finally, files can be deleted from this panel by selecting the red “X” icon.
There are also a few icons that appear next to each search history in the list. The blue arrows are used to load/view the selected history, while the yellow page icon is used to add annotations or upload attachments to be associated with the selected search history. To delete a given history, users must use the red “X” icon in the File Properties panel, discussed in the previous paragraph. (If a search history is deleted from a personal folder, it will still remain in the search histories folder; if it is deleted from the system folder, it will automatically be deleted from any personal folders as well.) If the user has any searches in the active search history, their will be an item listed as the "Current Search History" saved under this folder, which cannot be deleted from this interface (the "X" icon is not shown for Current Search History). The user must clear the current history from the Active Search History page (described above).
Loading a search history from the Saved Work interface causes it to open in a secondary window, but the functionality is very similar to what can be done in the active search history (described in the section above). Search queries can be edited, re-run, individually saved, set as alerts, deleted, or annotations may be added via the icons that appear next to each query.
Saving Individual Queries
As discussed above, wherever a search query appears, whether it is part of an active history or a saved search, it is always possible to save that search string as an individual query using the “floppy disk” icon. This could be done whenever the search query has some special significance. For example, if only one search query was useful out of 10 test queries, a user might choose to save that individual query before clearing the entire active history.
After choosing to save an individual query by selecting the “floppy disk”, the following dialog box will appear. Like Search Histories, users may choose to save a copy of an important query into their personal/public folders or shared via the Saved Work Inbox.
Saved queries can be accessed from the Searches & Alerts folder under the Saved Work inbox-style section, which contains very similar functionality to the Search Histories folder. The Alert column indicates via an alarm icon if the item in the folder is an active alert.
Editing Saved Queries
Editing a saved search query may be done by using the pencil icon from the active search history page, as described above. It may also be done using the “Refine & Subsearch” tool that appears at the top of the hit list (this tool is discussed in the Hit List section).
Searches may be edited at any time from a search history, whether it is part of the active search history, or from a saved search history file. Once they are executed, the newly edited queries will be recorded in the saved search history. Testing indicates that edited queries can be appended to a saved search history. For example, a saved search history "A" that currently consists of 8 queries can be selected, and the third query in the list can be edited to add new criteria and re-run. The new search form to edit the selected query (and subsequent search results) will appear in a new window. The user can reload the window listing the saved search history, and the new edited query will be appended to the saved search history. The user can then view details for search history "A" in the Saved Work interface, and the search history will now consist of 9 queries, since the edited query was appended to the saved search history.
It is useful that searchers are able to append edited searches to a saved search history. Consider a user that has finished a project and saved a search history, clearing the active history afterwards to have a clean slate for the next search project. Just then, he notices a typo in one of the strings, or realizes that there is one more synonym he should have added into the previous search. He has the ability to re-run one of the saved strings, and edit it. After reviewing the results, he wants to make sure that his last string is included with all the rest of the searches in his saved history. If the user has opened the saved search history from the Saved Work interface, edited the desired queries from the Search History window that appears, and refreshed the Search History after editing and running the desired queries, then the edited queries should now appear appended to the saved search history list.
It would be ideal if users could save any individual query onto any chosen saved search history in a quick and flexible way, instead of editing queries from a saved search history through the Saved Work interface. Despite the time consuming method, users at least have one option for appending edited queries to a saved search history.
MicroPatent Patentweb, a legacy product now owned by Thomson Reuters, also offers the ability for users to append new search strings to saved search histories.
Stacking (Combining) Queries
Oftentimes, patent searchers will create search strings that focus only on one aspects of the search subject matter at a time, to see the number of search hits that will result from each string, and get an idea of the limiting terms or features of the invention/product under investigation. After conducting several broad strings, patent searchers will combine all terms in a single query to discover the size of intersection between the initial results sets. Therefore, the ability to combine two or more previously executed search queries with Boolean operators is a must for any search engine to be able to perform this type of complex query logic. This can be done from the active search history page.
Note: Users can also create stacked queries from the Expert Search Form. See the Expert Search Form section for more information on this function.
In Innovation, the “pin” icon that appears to the left of each search query can be used to combine two queries together using a Boolean operator. This must be accomplished by using the pin icons in concert with the Boolean operator buttons that appear at the top of the screen in the figure below. The Boolean “OR is the default operator for this function: If no operator is chosen between clicking two pin icons to combine the two queries, “OR” will be automatically inserted between the two query numbers. Although users can type in the search form that displays the combined query numbers, the user will get an error message if they add any additional query terms on to the search:
You have entered an alphabetic or special character in the combine query field and only numerics (and operators) are accepted. Please update your entry using only numerics representing existing search queries and resubmit your request.
At first glance, this feature appears a bit clunky. The “Pin” icon is unnecessary, especially for advanced users, who are used to issuing commands or typing their search combinations into a text box, instead of having to click all around the page to activate these pins. On the other hand, some users might actually find the “pin” feature a timesaver, because they do not have to type the command out, or insert an operator (assuming they want to use the “OR” operator). It really depends on individual user preference. Testing does seem to indicate that the user may also choose to type out the query numbers and operators in the combined query search form, although additional terms cannot be added to the search.
- ↑ "Search History." Thomson Innovation website, http://www.thomsoninnovation.com/tip-innovation/support/help/search_history.htm. Accessed September 20, 2012.
- ↑ "Saved Work." Thomson Innovation website, http://www.thomsoninnovation.com/tip-innovation/support/help/files_folders.htm. Accessed September 20, 2012.