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Education Research for Graduate Students: Searching ERIC

ERIC - Education Resources Information Center

ERIC is the most widely known education database and should be one of the first places you research an education topic.


The three videos below demonstrate a variety of useful search skills.


Our videos use ERIC (at EBSCOhost). You may also use the freely available ERIC (at, this site is available to everyone, no need to log into GALILEO. There are two other versions, ERIC (at ProQuest) and ERIC (education) (at OCLC). We prefer ERIC (at EBSCOhost) because it is easy to use and includes links to full-text online content that the library subscribes to.

Searching ERIC

This video covers:

  • Finding ERIC (at EBSCOhost)

  • Keyword searching

  • Refining your search by Publication Type or Education Level


Refining ERIC Results

This video covers:

  • Refine your search using Limiters, Source Types, Subject, Publication, or Language

  • Several ways to manage your research results


ERIC Specific Information

As you search in the database, you can select certain options, known as limiters, to make your search results fit with your research needs or the instructions in your assignment. Often, professors provide guidelines on the type of publication or when the article was published. Beyond the common limiters provided below, ERIC has some advanced discipline-specific limiters that you can use when searching. 


Common Limiters 


Full Text 

  • All your search results will be Full Text. 

Peer Reviewed 

  • Search results will only include articles that are Peer Reviewed. 

Date Range

  • Search results published within a certain date range.


Advanced Limiters


Educational Level

  • Limit the search by educational level..


Publication Type

  • Report - Research will limit the search results to research articles.

ERIC records will have an ERIC Number or Accession Number. These numbers indicate wether the record is from an academic journal (EJ) or another type of publication (ED) such as papers, dissertations, guides, books, etc.


ERIC Number/Accession Number

  • In, the search results include an ERIC Number.

  • In ERIC(at EBSCOHost) this number is called an Accession Number. 


  • Numbers starting with ED are ERIC Documents, which are unpublished documents. 
    • example: (ED572827)


  • Numbers starting with EJ are ERIC Journals, which are articles in education journals. 
    • example: (EJ1125222)



  • Keywords are the search terms that you use to search for records on your topic.
  • Keyword searching is what many of us start with. When you type in your search terms and hit Search, you are doing a keyword search. You can use limiters with a keyword search and it will still be a keyword search. 
  • A keyword search searches for the term(s) in the Title, Abstract, Descriptors, and Identifiers fields.
  • If the keyword(s) appears in those fields, it will be included in the search results. This is true even if the keyword is only mentioned once and has nothing to do with the actual topic of the record. For this reason, keyword searching can return results that are off-topic. 


  • Descriptor searches are designed to return results that are on-topic. Descriptors are a standardized list, or controlled vocabulary, of terms used to organize ERIC records by subject. 
  • A Descriptor search searches the Descriptors field (DE=)
  • Descriptors are assigned to each ERIC record. A Descriptor describes the subject content of a record. Descriptors provide a more precise description of a records' subjects than keywords do. 

ERIC's Thesaurus

  • The ERIC Thesaurus contains the Descriptors used in ERIC.  
  • You can search the Thesaurus search to find the best, most accurate, descriptor(s) for your topic, keyword, or subject terms.

ERIC (at EBSCOhost) Thesaurus

This video covers:

  • Using the Thesaurus to refine your search

  • Using Descriptors or Subjects to search



How to translate your keywords into descriptors:

For this example, let's assume you are researching students' math grades, possibly focusing on students' grades on homework and test. What Descriptors should you use to search for this topic?

  • Go into ERIC at EBSCOhost
  • Click on Thesaurus (located in the top blue bar)
  • Enter your keyword in the Browsing ERIC - Thesaurus search box
    • Click on Relevancy Ranked
  • Click on Browse
  • Take a look at the terms that come up:


In the second search box on this page under Browsing ERIC - Thesaurus, middle grades has been entered into the search box.



In this case, it looks like grades is bringing back a lot of irrelevant Descriptors. We are not looking for grade levels, we are looking for grades on homework and tests. What other terms might be appropriate? Are we really talking about achievement when we say grades?

  • Search math achievement in the Browsing ERIC - Thesaurus
  • Click on the Descriptor that looks like the best match
    • In this example Mathematics Achievement
  • Click on the Descriptor will usually give you a definition of the Descriptor


match achievement entered in the search box under Browsing: ERIC -- Thesaurus. Generates Math Achievement at the bottom, provides a definition, and various related terms like Achievement, Academic Achievement, Mathematical Aptitude, etc.


To search with the Descriptor:

  • Click the box next to the Descriptor
  • Click Add
    • The Descriptor will be added to the Search box at the top
  • Click Search