How to use the ERIC database: the complete tutorial
What is the ERIC database?
ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) is a database that provides more than 1.6 million texts related to all aspects of education.
➡️ ERIC can be freely accessed at https://eric.ed.gov/
The ERIC research database is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences within the United States Department of Education. It is the largest database for education literature and contains resources dating back to 1966.
ERIC database resources
There are a variety of resources available within ERIC, including:
- Journal articles
- Conference proceedings
- Executive summaries of meetings
- Government publications
- Dissertations and theses
- Books and book chapters
- Audiovisual resources
Currently, ERIC contains over 250 journals, which are included in the database based on specific criteria. Because it is primarily a resource for education-related texts, an entire journal is only included if more than 80% of its articles focus on education.
When the percentage is lower than 80 percent, then articles are selected on a case-by-case basis. ERIC content is updated monthly, so you should find new resources frequently.
How to search ERIC by keyword and subject
Steps for searching ERIC by keyword or subject
- To begin a basic search in ERIC, choose whether to search via the collection or the thesaurus. You will have to search differently based on which method you choose.
- To search via the collection, you will need to enter keywords, for example: “higher education,” “mobile learning,” or “augmented reality.” ERIC will then search all articles that have these keywords indexed in the bibliographic record.
➡️ The ERIC Youtube channel also has some great videos to get you started.
ERIC search results example
The number of results in the above example is 177,987. This is far too many to work through, so you could use the following filters to narrow your results:
- Peer reviewed only: this will limit the search to texts that have undergone the peer review process.
- Full text available on ERIC: this will only show results that are available in full text within ERIC.
Applying both of these limiters reduces the number of results significantly.
➡️ Learn more about peer review in our guide on what are peer reviewed journals.
Pro tip: Consider using a reference manager like Paperpile to save, organize, and cite your references. Paperpile integrates with ERIC and many popular databases, so you can save references and PDFs directly to your library using the Paperpile buttons:
Use the following filters to refine your search results:
The year the text was published.
These are subject terms which show more relevant search results than when searching with keywords.
Name of the journal or publisher.
The author of the text, or contributors to conference proceedings.
ERIC allows for limiting search by education level such as K-12 or higher education to more granular divisions.
The author may not always choose to tag the audience, but it is an option which allows them to select the audience who would be most interested in that particular resource.
States or countries.
This field generates resources that talk about a particular policy. In the case of cyber charter schools, one of the policy tags is No Child Left Behind
Related assessment or survey
Further texts relating to the topic.
Conducting a thesaurus search in ERIC
The thesaurus search is a search for subject descriptors: an organized group of similar topics in a research area. When entering a search in the thesaurus, you will be presented with a list of descriptors which match your search term.
For example, the image below shows the suggested descriptors for a search for “migration.”
Clicking on any of these links will bring you to a descriptor page. You can use the descriptor by clicking the “Search collection using this descriptor” link, as shown in the screenshot below. The page also includes many related descriptors to help narrow or widen your search.
Once a descriptor has been chosen, the presented results can be further narrowed with additional filters, just like a keyword search. However, if you apply the full text available on ERIC or the peer reviewed only filter, then the search will revert to a keyword search.
ERIC advanced search features
Sometimes it is necessary to run an advanced search. This means that you select different fields before you begin the search.
The most straightforward advanced search feature is to use Boolean operators and quotes. Boolean operators include the words:
Using AND combines terms, using OR allows for either term to appear, and using NOT searches one term but not another.
➡️ Read more about how to efficiently search online databases for academic research.
A common reason to use NOT is when searching for Greek life in higher education. Several of the search results will be related to drinking or enforced restrictions on parties. However, Greek life also engages in philanthropy and service learning. By entering “Greek life” NOT “drinking,” the results will eliminate any articles which refer to drinking.
You can also use field names to narrow your search. For example, papers on migration, by the author Roberts can be found with the search term “migration, author:roberts.” The available field names are presented in the filters table, above. In addition, you can also use the “title” and “abstract” field names.
One of the unique advanced search features to ERIC is the use of the ERIC accession number. This is only available for ERIC documents. The results are generally given with the most recent publications first. However, this is only possible if you have the ERIC accession number to begin with.
Retrieving the full text article in ERIC
Once you have filtered down your search results, you’ll want to access the full text. Click the "Direct link" option in the gray box to the right of the search result to get to the publisher's page where you can access the full text of the article.
It is important to note that if access is not provided by your institution or workplace, then most of these direct link resources will be inaccessible. However, if they are published under an accepted open access model you may still be able to access them.
ERIC is a very specialized database for researchers in education and related areas. As such the results are often of high quality. It's main search functions much like any other academic database or academic search engine, but it also includes a thesaurus search which provides comprehensive results for research in selected sub-areas and topics within education research.
➡️ Working on a literature review? Visit our guide on how to write a literature review.
Alternative ERIC access routes
ERIC can also be accessed via several research database providers. These offer additional access to full text articles, but you need an institutional subscription to access them.
Frequently Asked Questions about using ERIC
🐘 What is ERIC?
ERIC stands for the Education Resources Information Center and is a database that provides more than 1.6 million texts related to all aspects of education.
🐐 How do I access ERIC?
ERIC can be freely accessed at https://eric.ed.gov/
🐪 Is ERIC an academic database?
Yes, ERIC provides access to bibliographic records of journal and non-journal literature from 1966 to the present. The database is considered an academic source.
🦙 Is ERIC peer-reviewed?
Yes, most of the education journals that ERIC indexes are peer-reviewed.
🦛 Is ERIC free?
Yes, ERIC is free.