Most inventions are a solution to a problem. Most problems have several solutions, to persuade one that your idea is better one needs to know what alternatives are.
A prior art/ state of the art search allows one to:
Provisional – not examined, placeholder patent
Nonprovisional – examined – three types
Databases: Remember to look at both patent and non-patent literature
To review the basics of patents, and inventor and entrepreneurial resources, look at the US Patent and Trademark Organization (USPTO).
A few sample non patent databases:
Various business databases such as: IBIS, Gale, PRoquest, Business Source Elite and Nexus Uni
The Art of Patent Searching