Databases for fusion experiments are designed to store several million wave forms. Temporal evolution signals show the same patterns under the same plasma conditions and, therefore, pattern recognition techniques can allow identification of similar plasma behaviors. Further developments in this area must be focused on four aspects: large databases, feature extraction, similarity function, and search/retrieval efficiency. This article describes an approach for pattern searching within wave forms. The technique is performed in three stages. Firstly, the signals are filtered. Secondly, signals are encoded according to a discrete set of values (code alphabet). Finally, pattern recognition is carried out via string comparisons. The definition of code alphabets enables the description of wave forms as strings, instead of representing the signals in terms of multidimensional data vectors. An alphabet of just five letters can be enough to describe any signal. In this way, signals can be stored as a sequence of characters in a relational database, thereby allowing the use of powerful structured query languages to search for patterns and also ensuring quick data access.