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SPED 3520: Program Development/Students with Severe Disabilities: ERIC database

ERIC - What is it?

ERIC, the Education Resource Information Center, is a subject specific database that provides access to education literature and resources. The database provides access to information from journals included in the Current Index of Journals in Education and Resources in Education Index. The database contains more than 1.3 million records and links to more than 323,000 full-text documents dating back to 1966.

As you search in ERIC you will discover that it provides full text and bibliographic information for a wide range of materials from articles to books to conference proceedings and more. The database distinguishes articles from other formats by assigning an ERIC number to each item (in paranthese) which is placed at the end of its citation information in your results list. The number always starts with an EJ to indicate that its an ERIC journal article or ED to indicate that it is an ERIC document. Documents are any format except journal articles. Many of the documents are available online in ERIC, but if the database indicates that it is only available on microfiche the library has the microfiche collection available in the Periodicals Collection, 2nd floor.

ERIC Thesaurus

The Thesaurus Authority File is an extensive alphabetical list of terms encompassing a wide range of topical subjects. The Thesaurus is arranged in a hierarchy that permits searching various levels of detail from the most general level to more narrow levels to find the most precise concept. Thesaurus entries include 'Use', 'Broader Terms', 'Narrower Terms', and 'Related Terms'.

The authority file provides flexibility in searching. As an alternative to the keyword search mode, the authority file enables the user to search by subject and to combine one or more terms to create more defined searches. Select the Alphabetical option to position the authority file list to the term(s) entered. Select Relevancy Ranked to order search results according to relevance.

You can browse the Thesaurus by clicking on the link in the upper-left corner of the ERIC database screen. This is a great way to find words or phrases to use as your search terms.

Searching in Databases

Limit Options:

Most of our databases, including ERIC, provide limit options that you can use to help narrow your search. Most databases have at least these two limits:

  • Full Text - Check this option if you only want to see the articles that have full text available in that database. When you use this option keep in mind that you may not be seeing some really great articles that you need for your research and you may have access to through one of our other databases, our print collection or our Interlibrary Loans service.
  • Date Range - Use this when you want the database to exclude any articles that are too old to use in your research. Often your professor may state that you can only use materials from the 5 or 10 years.

ERIC and many of our other databases provide additional limits you may want to use such as:

  • Scholarly Journals / Peer-reviewed Journals / Academic Journals (name differs, but they all mean the same thing) - Check this option when you only want to see articles written by professionals in the field which are submitted to the publisher for review by experts in the field before they are published in professional, scholarly journals.
  • Publication / Journal Name - This tells the database to only search within a specific journal for articles on your topic.
  • Image Types - This tells the database to only keep the articles that include images such as pictures, diagrams, charts, etc.
  • Publication Type - You can specify if you only want newspaper articles, journal articles, books, audio files, etc. The type of files you can select from will depend on the type of resources the database contains.

Limits unique to ERIC:

  • Intended Audience - This tells the database to only bring back materials that were written for the audience level you selected such as administrators, teachers, students, parents, researchers, etc.
  • Educational Level - If you select an educational or grade level from this list such as early childhood, middle schools or grade 5, you will only see materials that address that level. The benefit to this limit is you don't need to use a search term to narrow your results down by educational level.
  • ERIC Number - Every document in ERIC whether it is an article, book or some other publication type is assigned a unique ERIC number by the database which you can search by even if you have no other information. If the item is an article published in a journal, the ERIC number starts with EJ. If the item is any other type of document (book, report, speech, etc.), the ERIC number starts with ED.

Special Search Functions:

ERIC and many of our databases also offer special searching functions which can be really helpful. When you are in a new database click on Help to see what is available. A couple of the functions to look for are:

  • Truncation Symbols - The truncation symbol is usually an asterisk "*". When you have a search term such as teenager you can type in the root of the word followed by the truncation symbol and the database will look for all forms of the word and retrieve the articles. So if you typed in teen* the database would look for teen, teens, teenager and teenagers. It is also great for when you want to get the singular and plural forms of a word.

    An important thing to keep in mind when using truncation is where you truncate the word and what type of database are you in. For example if you are in an Education database and you type bull*, you will get articles on bullying. However the same truncated search term in a general reference database will get articles on bullying, cows, rodeo, bullets, etc.

  • Wildcard Symbols - The symbol is usually a question mark "?" or a pound sign "#". The symbol substitutes for a letter when you are not sure of the spelling. For example if you are looking for articles written by Ann Reid but you're not sure if her last name is spelled Reid or Reed you can type in Re?d and the database will look for both names.

  • Including Phrases in a Search - Some databases assume that if you type two or more words together and don't separate them by using AND, OR, NOT, that the words should be treated as a phrase. Other databases assume that several words typed together are words to be searched individually, just as is you had typed OR between each one, and need you to tell it by enclosing the words in parentheses or quotation marks that they are actually a phrase.