How to Use ERIC via EBSCO

How ERIC Searches | Getting Started | Reading the Results |
Determining if the Library has an Item | Saving and Printing Your Results |
Frequently Asked Questions

How ERIC Searches

In the EBSCO database service, ERIC performs two main types of word searching:

  • Keyword search ("Select a Field (optional)" search): ERIC will find all items that contain your search terms in the Title, Author, Subject, Institution Name, Core Subjects, and Abstract Summary fields.
  • Descriptor search: ERIC will only find items that contain your search terms in the Descriptor or Subject fields.

Getting Started

1. Write down your topic.
Example: What types of racial discrimination do African-Americans face in schools?

2. Identify the important terms in your topic statement.

- African-Americans
- racial discrimination
- schools

3. Use the ERIC Thesaurus to search for the descriptors that best match your topic. (You can access the ERIC Thesaurus in EBSCO by clicking on the "Thesaurus" link in the green bar near the top of the search screen. Print copies are available at the workstations in the Electronic Resource Center on the Library's main level.)

4. You can add descriptors to your search by clicking on the box next to the descriptor, then by clicking on the "Add" button in the "Thesaurus" section of the screen. This will automatically add the descriptor to the "Find" box at the top of the screen. When you're done adding descriptors, click the "Search" button.

5. You can also write down the descriptors you want, then go back to the Advanced Search screen and type the descriptors in the "Find" boxes. Click on the gray button to the right of the "Select a Field" box to open a drop-down list. Scroll down the list and select "SU Descriptors". Click the "Search" button when you're done.

Reading the Results

ERIC should give you a list of the items matching your search terms. (If it didn't, see "Frequently Asked Questions," below.) Each item includes information about what type of item it is (ERIC document or journal article), when it was published, who wrote it, and so forth. To see more information about an item, click on the title, which is blue and underlined. The screen that appears contains more information, such as:

  • An abstract, or summary, of the item.

  • Type of publication (journal article, research report, book, etc).

  • Descriptors, or subject headings, which describe what topics the article deals with.

Determining if the Library Has an Item

To determine if the Library has an item in your result list, look at the first two letters of the ERIC number. The letters indicate whether the item is an ERIC document or a journal.

  • ED (ERIC document)
    Many ERIC documents published from the 1970s to the present are available online, usually in PDF format. Full-text document citations have a "Full Text from ERIC" or an "HTML Full Text" link. (You'll need the free Adobe Reader software to view PDF files. If you need help downloading or installing this software, contact the Information Technology Helpdesk at 735-1915.) The Library also has 99.9% of the ED-numbered items on microfiche. These are located in the beige cabinets next to the Electronic Research Center computers, and are arranged according to the ED number. You'll need the ED number in order to find the fiche you want. (For all ERIC numbers before ED 141 550, please ask at the Research Help Desk.) ERIC stopped fiche production in 2004, but most ED-numbered items since 2004 are available in full text through the ERIC database.

  • EJ (journal article)
    ◦ You can ignore the EJ number, since you won't need it to find the journal article. The journal title, publication date, volume, issue number, and pagination appear after the item's title in the ERIC record.
    ◦ "Linked Full Text" means that the full text of the article is available within EBSCO. Click on the link to go to the article.
    ◦ "Check Article Linker" means that the article may be available in a non-EBSCO database, or that the Library may have a print copy. Click this link to open a window showing the library's electronic and print holdings for the journal.

Journal articles and books that aren't available at the Gannett-Tripp Library can be obtained through Interlibrary Loan. Requests are generally filled within a week to ten days (especially for journal articles) but can take longer due to the variables inherent in the borrowing process. Try to anticipate your needs and allow three weeks for requests to be filled.

Saving and Printing Your Results

EBSCO allows you to add items to a personal folder that can be printed out at the end of your session, or saved for future use. (To save your folder, you'll need to create a free personal EBSCO account.) You can also print your results one record at a time.

To Save Items to a Folder
  1. Click on "Add" in the column to the right of the item you want. The icon changes to an open yellow folder with "Added" below it. (You can also add all of the items displayed on the result page. Just click on the "Add" link at the upper right of the results.)
  2. When you're done selecting items, click on the "Folder has Items" link. (You can do several different searches and save items from each of them to the folder.)
  3. The items you've added to the folder are now displayed in a "Folder Contents List." At the left is a list of different types of items and the number of each type that's currently in the folder. Click on each type to display all items of that type.
  4. You can print, e-mail, or save your items to a disk. To print, click on the "Print" link. This will reformat your items for printing.
  5. The next screen (the Print Manager screen) has some important things to look at before you click the gray "Print" button at the left side of the screen. Above the "Print" button is a box with a checkmark in it. This will delete the items from your folder after printing. If you do NOT want this to happen, uncheck the box. The other important thing is the "Estimate Number of Pages" link. Click this and it will show you how many pages your printout will be. This is especially important if you're printing long articles.
Printing Full-Text Items in PDF Format

PDF files reproduce articles and documents exactly as they appeared in print form. This means that graphics, including tables, graphs, and photographs, appear in the context of the original printed item. PDFs can be tricky to print, though, so here are a few tips to help you.

  • Make sure that you use the Print button in the Adobe Reader toolbar instead of the browser's Print function. Browsers don't know how to tell printers to print PDF files correctly, whereas the Adobe software does.
  • In the Adobe "Print" window, go down to the bottom of the window and click the "Advanced" button. In the window that opens next, make sure the box next to "Print as Image" is checked. This is essential when printing full text material from ERIC. Click "OK", then click "OK" again to start the print job.
  • If you have any problems printing PDF files, please contact the Research Help Desk at (607) 735-1864.

Frequently Asked Questions

I searched ERIC, but it said it didn't have anything on my topic. How do I fix my search?
  • Use the ERIC Thesaurus to find descriptors that match your research topic. EBSCO lets you browse the thesaurus for the terms you need. (See the "Getting Started" section above.) If you have any questions about how to do this, ask at the Research Help Desk.

  • Broaden your ERIC search by using fewer search terms. Pick two or three keywords from your topic question and search again.

  • Do a "Select a Field (optional)" search, then look at the items in the results list until you find one that's relevant to your topic. Look at the descriptors in the item record and find the ones that best describe what you're looking for. Do another search using these descriptors in the "SU Descriptors" field.

  • Check your spelling.

I searched ERIC and got a list of 5000 records. How do I narrow my search?
  • Search by "SU Descriptors" instead of "Select a Field (optional)."

  • Focus on one aspect of your topic. EXAMPLE: "Children's Literature" is a large topic, so try narrowing it by adding other descriptors to your search, such as "Class Activities" or "Multicultural Education".

  • Narrow your search by educational level, grade level, and/or age. Use the "Educational Level" box in the "Refine Search" section of the screen to select a specific level (e. g., Preschool Education, Intermediate Grades, Middle Schools). Use descriptors to search for specific grade levels (Kindergarten, Grade 6) or age-specific groups (Early Adolescents, Children, Adults, Preschool Children). (See pp. xix-xx in the print copy of the ERIC Thesaurus for the complete list of educational level and age-group descriptors.)

  • Use the "Refine Search" tab at the top of your result list. This lets you limit your search by year, publication type, full text availability, etc.

I'm having trouble finding ERIC descriptors for my search. Help!

If you can't find an appropriate ERIC descriptor in the Thesaurus:

  • Do a "Select a Field (optional)" search, then look at the items in the results list until you find one that's relevant to your topic.

  • Look at the Descriptors and Identifiers for the item and find the ones that best describe what you're looking for.

  • Search again using these terms in the "Descriptors" or "Identifiers" field.
I need to find a research study and some lesson plans. How can I search ERIC for specific types of material?
  • In the "Refine Search" area of the search screen, look at the "Publication Type" box. Go down the list until you find the publication type you want, then click on it to select it.
  • Use additional terms (descriptors, keywords, etc.) to refine your search further.
  • You can also look at the Publication Type tables on pp. xxi-xxvi of the ERIC Thesaurus to find which ERIC publication type best describes the type of material you're looking for.

Some of the more commonly used publication types are as follows:

  • Reports – Research/Technical (Includes quantitative research studies.)

  • Numerical/Quantitative Data (Includes statistics. Remember that many research reports will contain statistical information but may not be classified as Numerical/Quantitative Data.)

  • Guides – Classroom – Learner (Includes student guides, workbooks, and worksheets.)

  • Guides – Classroom – Teacher (Includes lesson plans. To limit your search to lesson plans, search for this Publication Type and "Lesson Plans" in "Descriptors", plus additional descriptors or keywords for your topic.)

  • Journal Articles (Rarely used in searching, since you can use the "Publication Type" box to limit your search to journal articles.)
My instructor assigned us to find four articles from peer-reviewed journals. How do I do that?

From 2000 on, whenever an article came from a refereed journal (also called a peer-reviewed journal or a scholarly journal), ERIC stated this fact in the Notes field. The "Refine Search" part of the screen now contains an option to limit your search only to peer-reviewed articles. Before 2000, ERIC didn't indicate whether journals were refereed or not. Your best bet for finding older refereed articles will be to limit "Journal or Document" to "Journal Articles" and limit "Publication Type" to "Reports - Research." If you're unsure that a particular journal is refereed, contact the Research Help Desk and we'll confirm its status for you.

The microfiche for the ERIC document I need doesn't have the document on it! How can I get it?

What you've found is a microfiche for a "Level 3" ERIC document. ERIC indexes many kinds of material, including books, videos, and media kits. Not all of these items can be microfilmed, so ERIC classifies the unfilmed ones as "Level 3." Your next step is to search the Gannett-Tripp Library catalog to see if we have the item you need. If we don't, we can usually get it for you through Interlibrary Loan in two to three weeks. If you have questions about obtaining a Level 3 document, please contact the Research Help Desk.

I only know the ED or EJ number. How do I find the item?

Type the number into the "Find" box, omitting the space between the "ED" or "EJ" and the number. (Example: "ed432167". The letters can be either upper or lower case.) Use the drop-down list to change the box to "AN Accession Number," then click "Search".

How do I find works written by a specific author?

Type either the author's last name or the author's last name and first name into the "Find" box. Change "Select a Field (optional)" to "AU Author". (You don't need to capitalize the names because ERIC isn't case-sensitive.) If you're looking for a specific work by an author, type key words from the title into the next search box, then click the "Search" button.

How do I search for plurals?

Use the asterisk (*) at the end of words to search for all words beginning with the 3 or more letters you enter.

  • Example: "lesson*" searches for "lesson," "lessons," and "lessoning"

For complex plurals, you can search for both words, using an "OR" to connect the terms.

  • Example: "child OR children"


Last updated 10-10-07