By Teachers, For Teachers
“Who is this Eric I’ve been hearing so much about? Why do people talk about him like he knows everything?”
If you’ve ever heard educators talking about Eric, they’re not talking about a hunky new colleague, an education guru, or a Teacher of the Year winner. They’re talking about ERIC, the Education Resources Information Center. Specifcally, ERIC “Is an internet-based digital library of education research and information sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education.”
It’s literally a digital library of education publications facilitated by the U.S. government. ERIC primarily provides access to bibliographic records of education publications from 1966 to the present. This information is intended for teachers looking for classroom management resources and ideas, researchers, parents, administrators, policymakers, and the general public to make use of. The better access to education-related publications everyone has, the more informed all stakeholders can be as we seek to move education forward.
ERIC boasts over 1.6 million indexed resources from 1966 to the present. These aren’t all just journal publications, either. Here is a list of the types of resources you’re likely to find in ERIC:
The sources ERIC catalogues come from over 1000 journals. While ERIC seeks to include entire journals, it also has selectively identified articles. The point is that as many education-related articles as possible are indexed. While many references will yield you the abstract and publishing information, there are over 350,000 “Full-text” materials available to you, often as a link or as a downloadable PDF.
If you’re looking for education research (which I hope you are from time to time), then ERIC is one of the first places you should start. It is a search engine, and you can treat it similarly to how you’d do a Google search – but you don’t even have to use fancy Boolean search tactics. ERIC recommends you simply type the key terms you’re looking for. For example, if you want to learn about reading activities for English Language Learners in secondary education, you can type something like “Reading high school English Language Learners” and let ERIC sort out the most relevant search results.
You can bring to the forefront two of the most desirable factors in ERIC – peer-reviewed articles and full-text articles – by simply checking those boxes underneath the search bar. If, say, you’re looking for articles about motivating boys to read, you can read right now via a link from ERIC, simply type something like “Motivate boy reading” into the search bar and check the “Full text available on ERIC” box.
Once you run a search, you’ll see other limiting search factors on the left-hand sidebar. Here you can specify further whether you want certain publication dates, specific descriptors, and so on – much like an online search tool you’ll find at your local library’s catalogue.
Once you identify an article that pertains to your interest, you can click on the link (the link is the title that appears in the search). You’ll be taken to a page that typically shares with you the basic information of the article, including an abstract, the authors, the publication information, and the key descriptors for the content. On the right-hand side you’ll notice that ERIC will identify whether or not the article has been peer-reviewed, share a link to the full-text content if available, and also provide a direct link to the article’s publisher.
While you might not have access to the full text content you desire, it is still fruitful to read the abstracts and receive the citation publication information, which usually includes how you can contact the publisher to pursue the content you’re after.
So now that you’ve been introduced to ERIC, it’s time to get started! Obviously, no fancy training is necessary. It’s as simple as opening up the search bar, typing in what you want to learn more about, and exploring your results.
One of ERIC’s strengths is that it helps to narrow searches to peer-reviewed and full-text documents. I recommend that you check both boxes, as it will help speed up your access to content and bring the best content to light.
So what is it that you want to learn more about in education? What are your personal goals and curiosities? How might education research have a bigger role to play in your position as a teacher? Save ERIC to your favorites tab, search away, and share what you find with your colleagues! The whole point of ERIC is to bridge the gap between the people researching and the people applying the research – so take advantage!
Have you used ERIC before? In what ways has this tool been applicable for you?
Jordan Catapano taught English for 12 years in a Chicago suburban high school, where he is now an assistant principal. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish.