I think extended search is better suited for these scenarios. Once you type the words you are trying to search for, depending on the version and your settings, hitting enter or search will start an extended search and bring up the search tab bar.
The thoughts listed in the first section are all the thoughts that contain the search term in the name or label. If you have too many instances of the word in the labels you can click advanced and choose just to search the name. You can also narrow down your search further by going to a parent thought you know contains the thought with the term (you can control the distance up to a maximum of seven clicks in Preferences > Search > Filter under active thought). You can click the search results and activate the corresponding thought without losing the list, or your place in the list. You can also choose Edit > Add Search results to selection to create sort of a sublist if you want. My normal workflow is using instant search with a single word, then expand to multiple words if there are too many returns (and I have an idea of what a second word in the name might be), and then resort to Extended search. Edit: found a bug where if you select just Name in Advanced search, it still returns thoughts with the search term in the attachment. Tested on OS X.