The Pros and Cons of EBSCOhost’s Visual Search Form

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Most search platforms give users access to multiple search forms, since each searcher has different needs and strategies.  Patent searchers need access to a wide variety of databases and search forms in order to locate all available prior art.  A command line interface allows the user to create extremely customized, flexible search strings, but a more structured form may help the user craft a search within certain fields or limiters they may have otherwise overlooked.  I was therefore particularly intrigued when I first saw the visual search option on the EBSCOhost platform.  The visual search form provides some unique tools for locating non-patent literature prior art, such as visualizations of relavency, collection of relevant documents while still viewing search results, and filtering documents by subject through selection of related keywords.

After the jump, learn the pros and cons of tools available in the EBSCOhost Visual Search!

Visualizing Relevancy

Pro: Visualizations of relevancy include two options:

  • A relavency ranking under each document, between one and three boxes.

View the relavency ranking for each document.

  • In the Blocks display format, the graph of keywords and results illustrates which keywords correspond to the highest number of results.

View the relavency of keywords through the Blocks display format.

Con:  Only a limited number of ranking classifications (1-3, with 3 being greatest relavency) are available, and no full view of of the Blocks display results is available.   The user must navigate through the Blocks display using control arrows or the “Results Map,” which shows where in the full chart of results the user is currently located.

Saving Relevant Documents

Pro: Easily collect relevant documents during each search by dragging documents within the visual search results over to the “Collect Articles” section.  Each document is represented as a small green box, and I was able to store over 50 documents in this section at one time.  You can view summary information about each document by selecting the representative box.  The full document record can be viewed by selecting “More” at the bottom of the summary window.

Drag and drop relevant documents into the "Collect Articles" section.

Con: Documents in the “Collect Articles” section aren’t automatically stored in your account “Folder,” and the “Collect Articles” documents are automatically deleted if you navigate away from the search page.  You can save documents to your Folder by selecting the “Add to Folder” option above the summary page.  It becomes difficult to navigate through the unlabeled boxes representing each document once you’ve selected a large number of results, and it also is time-consuming to drag and drop each document individually into the “Collect Articles” section.

Filtering of Documents

Pro: Users can quickly filter documents by either subject or date through the visual search.  User sort results by topic by selecting under “Group Results”>>”By Subject.”  A list of relevant keywords will then be displayed, and users can select each keyword to view a list of documents that correspond to the keyword.  In the Columns display format, further keywords associated with the selected keyword are listed in an adjoining column above the search results, and users may further filter the results by selecting another keyword to combine with the first keyword.  This process can be repeated up to four times.

Results are filtered by date through the “Filter Results by Date” option in the horizontal menu at the top of the visual search window.  Users simply slide limiters along a timeline to indicate the range between the earliest and most recent publication dates.

Use the Columns display to filter results by related keywords.

Con: Only the top 250 most recent results are available for analysis in the visual search form (according to EBSCO Help), so users can’t limit the entire possible result set by these keyword or date filters within the visual search.  The earliest date limiter available is also the earliest date of publication in the result set of the most recent 250 documents.


The limitation of the search results to the 250 most recent documents is obviously a large problem if a searcher is trying to locate all relevant prior art.  Searchers should use both the advanced and simple search forms within the EBSCOhost platform, along with the visual search, to try different search strategies and locate all relevant documents.  A single search form, a single database, or even a single search platform won’t ever locate all relevant prior art on a specific topic (I’m looking at you, Google).  Trying an innovative search form, like EBSCOhost’s visual search, may help you locate that one golden reference, though.  So why not give it a try?

What type of search form do you find the most useful?  Let us know in the comments!

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.


One Response

  1. Excellent article, but what’s your opinion about creating a second part to this article? What you covered was impressive, do not get me wrong, I simply think there was some essential problems you left un-answered.

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