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I'm a freshman Master's student in Computer Science and I need to write a paper for my Operating System class. While looking through research articles using google scholar I found that a lot results lead me to patents. I was wondering if patents are good sources for writing an academic paper or if I should steer clear from them?

My goal is to be able to summarize various papers from a specific topic related to operating systems. Also if possible (but not mandatory) to provide some kind of solution. Any advice would be greatly appreciated since this would be my first time writing a technical paper.

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    $\begingroup$ The U.S. Patent System is the largest storehouse of technical knowledge on the planet, depends on how you want to use it. If you are writing a general paper on the history of operating systems you might want to be "painting broad strokes" by citing the big key developments in systems technology rather than getting bogged down in the minutia of all the technical details. $\endgroup$ – William Hird Oct 29 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see what this has to do with theoretical computer science. $\endgroup$ – D.W. Oct 29 at 21:33
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Are patents good sources for academic research?

In general, a clear NO. Typically, patents are intentionally written in a diffuse language to cover as much ground as possible (without incuring the danger of claiming something already known for oneself). They are not written in a way that they can be used by an engineer or understood by a scholar. They are written such that the courts later can decide in favor of the patent holder or their representative.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm an engineer and have been using patent literature for 30+ years on many engineering projects, many times resulting in the development of commercially successful products. $\endgroup$ – William Hird Oct 30 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ So what? I'm not claiming universality. I'm reproducing the wording of a patent laywer more or less verbatim. Of course, the patents run out; in this case, they don't cost you money, but you still need to invest time into understanding what was written. If you have used a patent successfully at a low cost and quickly, it's your success, and the job the patent holders did was not as good as they could potentially do. $\endgroup$ – MdAyq Oct 30 at 22:05
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Before answering the question: "I was wondering if patents are good sources for writing an academic paper or if I should steer clear from them?", I'd clearly determine the goal I'd want to achieve and based on that, start your research (e.g. through google scholar, patents, books - springer / elsevier, ...)

You state: "My goal is to be able to summarize various papers from a specific topic related to operating systems." and "Also if possible (but not mandatory) to provide some kind of solution."

You might want to combine both by looking into the biggest challenges that we are facing today as human kind and how OSs are part of the solution to those challenges. You could take an inductive approach, starting from something that resonates for you: e.g. look at quantum computing? I have no idea whether there are already OSs for quantum computers, but that might be something interesting to research, no? Maybe also interesting to link back to the current reality and what is needed to achieve the future that we envision?

So my advice? Start with the concrete domain (OSs is very generalistic) you want to research, formulate a research question and look for potential sources to tell your story next.

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