Track down articles your colleagues can’t find

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] When I was new to searching, I sometimes had the habit of deleting seemingly meaningless document identifier numbers out of literature abstracts I found.  Now I know that these numbers play an important role in locating the print and/or full text version of those documents, and I always save them.

It’s good practice to keep a record of these numbers, especially if the non-patent literature was found through an abstract-only database like Compendex or Inspec.   Read on to learn more about document identifiers, and how they can give you the edge in document retrieval.

Here is a quick primer on some different types of document identification numbers and their meaning.

DOI: Digital Object Identifier

The DOI system has been developed to act as a sort of permalink to an article’s “home  page” on the web.  Usually a DOI links to a publisher’s website.  They protect against link rot and are a useful way to represent a document’s location online.  Information about the document may change over time, but the DOI for a document will not change.

ISSN: International Standard Serial Number

An ISSN represents a particular journal or serial publication (rather than a specific article).  Keeping these numbers around is quite important.  When you can’t buy the article online, you can use the ISSN to search for other libraries or organizations that have holdings for the particular journal in question.

Using an ISSN is far more efficient than searching on a publication’s name, especially for publications that have very broad or general names (e.g. “Computer World”).  Running an ISSN search through the JISC-ADAT database assessment tool can show you which online databases have holdings; running it through WorldCat can show you which libraries have print holdings.

CODEN: Code Number

Like the ISSN, CODENs are used to unambiguously identify serials and periodicals.   They are maintained by the American Chemical Society.

LCCN: Library of Congress Control Number

LCCN numbers can be helpful when attempting to retrieve a print record at the Library of Congress.  If they can’t pull the document from the stacks using the bibliographic information, librarians can rely on the LCCN to cross-check possible other locations of the document.

Other “Accession Numbers”

“Accession numbers” in general are unique identifiers usually assigned by the database producer itself.   These numbers don’t make any sense unless they are also paired with the name of the database in which the record was found.  For example, a “Derwent Accession Number” is only useful to look up records in the Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI), and the Accession Number on an Inspec record is only useful to look up that record in the Inspec database. One of the main reasons to understand these numbers is that they sometimes appear in an Information Disclosure Statement (IDS) within a patent file history, and you need to use them to track down the reference document to find its bibliographic data.

What are your tips for tracking down hard-to-locate print copies?  Share them in the comments!

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Landon IP Librarian Kristin Whitman. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.


7 Responses

  1. this maybe a little off topic but i am often supplied patent numbers without the country code. after years of experience i can usually guess which 2 or 3 countries they might be from, but those 2 letters are pretty vital.

    • If they are application numbers you have a bit more to go on because of the formatting differences between authorities, but patent number guessing is pretty impressive. My only method for that would be if you know about what date the document was from (i.e. 6 million US patent v. 2 million EP patent) or to throw it into a search system that will search multiple authorities at once.

      Or maybe it’s magic?

  2. Was the esp@cenet SmartSearch field designed in part to address this challenge? Or am I thinking of something else?

  3. Yes, the smart search was designed to cope with that.
    And yes, application numbers are usually easier to work out, although i was stumped when handed an AU application number with the “200” left off the front because it had been “americanised’ to look like a serial number.

  4. […] does have an advantage in that the citations included the digital object identifier, which can be handy in finding the original document later. ProQuest also had more supported formats (although Scopus had the most important ones […]

  5. […] full text of an important piece of prior art in a free or subscription database, they may need to track down a print version of the document through WorldCat.  WorldCat, provided by the Online Computer […]

  6. […] (NPL) prior art through any means necessary, including on-site or catalog searches of libraries and using various document identifier numbers to track down the paper versions of these documents within the libraries. First, though, the patent […]

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