Erdmann suggests looking at the PAIR data for Dean Kamen’s US7370713 Personal Mobility Vehicle and Methods 1999 as a interesting example.
PAIR (http://portal.uspto.gov/external/portal/pair) includes the history of patent and assignments of published application including “file wrapper” which in the past could be purchased. She finds that the application number is the most effective way to search however there are other fields that can be (control #, PCT #Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/mpep.htm) if you really wish to know how this process works.
To use PAIR you will need to navigate the tabs along the top of each record. Transaction history gives a rundown of dates and activities associated, including “non-final rejection,” “Request for Continued Examination” etc. The image file wrapper includes all files associated which users can download. Continuity data includes reexamination of certificate and some claims may be cancelled.