ERIC Identifier: ED363052
Publication Date: 1993-10-00
Author: Smarte, Lynn
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
ERIC Basics: How To Use ERIC To Search Your Special Education
Topic. ERIC Digest E523.
Have you heard of ERIC but never used it? Have you used ERIC but wondered if
you found everything on your topic? Here are some tips for new and experienced
ERIC users that will help you get the most out of the world's largest education
WHAT IS ERIC?
The Educational Resources Information Center
(ERIC) is a federally-funded, nationwide information network designed to provide
users with ready access to education literature. Papers, curriculum and teaching
guides, conference proceedings, literature reviews, and curricular materials,
along with articles from nearly 800 education-related journals, are indexed and
abstracted for entry into the ERIC database.
Although the ERIC system consists of many clearinghouses and other network
components at various locations around the United States, it is important to
remember that there is only one ERIC database. Whether you access ERIC through a
public library, college library, or other information center, you are searching
the same database of educational information.
ERIC AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
Currently, over 60,000 documents
and journal articles in ERIC relate to the education of exceptional children.
Most of these are processed by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted
WHAT WILL YOU GET FROM AN ERIC SEARCH?
The result of the
search will be an annotated bibliography of journal and document literature on
your topic. After you have received and screened your search, you can readily
obtain the full text of most of the materials. Microfiche or paper copies of
materials are available from many ERIC service providers or from the ERIC
Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). Journal articles can be found in many
libraries or reprints can be ordered from article reprint services.
FIND THE BEST WAY FOR YOU TO ACCESS ERIC
You can now use
ERIC at university libraries, many public and professional libraries, and
perhaps your closest personal computer. Computer networks and services like the
Internet, SpecialNet, OCLC's First Search, and GTE Education Services are
providing users with direct access to ERIC. Before you decide where to search
ERIC, ask these questions:
How much will it cost?
You may have free or inexpensive access to ERIC. If not, you may have to pay
for connect time on some computer systems or order a search through a search
How much of the ERIC database is available?
Some services provide access to only the most recent five or ten years of
ERIC, which may be all you need. Decide whether you want to limit your search by
date; remember that the database was started in 1966.
How long will it take?
Turnaround time can vary greatly, from a few minutes if you have direct
access to ERIC on a personal computer, to several days or longer if you have to
order a search that someone else will run for you.
How much flexibility does the search system offer?
Many different software systems are used to search ERIC. Some menu-driven
search systems make it easy for a first-time user, but limit your opportunities
to make changes to your search question. If you try searching ERIC and feel you
cannot locate exactly what you are looking for, ask your librarian for help or
call an ERIC clearinghouse.
For help in locating access to ERIC, call ACCESS ERIC at 1-800-LET-ERIC
USE THE THESAURUS OF ERIC DESCRIPTORS
Every one of the over
800,000 articles and documents in the ERIC database has been given subject
indexing terms called descriptors. Before you run an ERIC search, it is
important to take a few minutes to find the ERIC descriptors that best capture
For example, articles and documents about regular class placement are indexed
under the descriptor "mainstreaming." If you want resources about developing
children's social skills, the best descriptor is "interpersonal competence."
If you are using ERIC at a library, ask for a copy of "The Thesaurus of ERIC
Descriptors." If you cannot locate a "Thesaurus," call an ERIC clearinghouse for
help with your strategy. (Note: If you are searching a relatively new concept
for which there is no descriptor, "free text" searching is available on most
systems. Free text searching means you can look for the word or concept anywhere
in the abstract.)
KNOW YOUR ANDS AND ORS
Although the software used to search
ERIC will depend on which system you use, all searching is based on Boolean
logic. The computer creates sets of information based on the way you tell it to
combine subject terms (descriptors).
For example, if you wanted ideas on how computers can be used to improve the
writing skills of students with learning disabilities, you could use the
Thesaurus to find these subject descriptors:
To search ERIC for records that are indexed under all three of your concepts,
you would combine these descriptors with ANDs:
disabilities AND computer assisted instruction AND writing instruction
If you wanted to expand your search to find additional relevant materials on
this topic, you could add descriptors to your writing and computer sets using
the OR operator:
assisted instruction OR computer uses in education) AND (writing instruction OR
The next step might be to combine your "writing" sets and "computer" sets
(using AND) with the descriptor learning disabilities. The result might look
disabilities AND (computer assisted instruction OR computer uses in education)
AND (writing instruction OR writing skills).
or add more to your search.
and help focus your search.
USE THE ERIC CLEARINGHOUSES
All of the ERIC clearinghouses
have information specialists who can help you plan the best strategy for
searching your topic. When you call or write to a clearinghouse, ask about
special clearinghouse publications on your topic. Clearinghouses produce free
and inexpensive publications, such as Digests and brief bibliographies, as well
as more extensive products.
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, located at The
Council for Exceptional Children, has the primary responsibility for collecting
and disseminating information on special education. For a list of current
products from this clearinghouse, or for help with your search strategy, call
The following is a list of the 16 ERIC Clearinghouses. For a complete list of
addresses and telephone numbers, call ACCESS ERIC at 1/800-LET-ERIC
ERIC Clearinghouse on
Career, and Vocational Education
and Student Services
and Gifted Education
and Early Childhood Education
English, and Communication
Education and Small Schools
Mathematics, and Environmental Education
Studies/Social Science Education
and Teacher Education
For more information on using ERIC to locate information on disabilities and
gifted education, you can order a copy of:
TO FIND ANSWERS TO YOUR SPECIAL EDUCATION QUESTIONS"
Lynn Smarte and Kathleen McLane
Number R637, 1992
This 70-page, user-friendly guide for students, researchers, librarians, and
other professional searchers includes basic information on how and where to
access ERIC, a step-by-step guide to planning search strategies, three sample
searches and tips on other ERIC searchable features such as publication types
and identifiers. Appendices include a list of all ERIC descriptors for
disabilities and giftedness, and lists of other databases and organizations
concerned with special education.
Council for Exceptional Children