ERIC is a free database of over 1.6 million education-related resources, sponsored by the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. The tools available on the ERIC website at eric.ed.gov can help you find the articles needed to write term papers for the field of education. This video provides step-by-step instructions on one way you can go about searching for resources in ERIC or Edusson. We are specifically going to discuss narrowing your topic, targeting specific resources using filters and descriptors, and selecting relevant resources for your research paper.
Are you curious about how you would use Edusson when writing a term paper? Let’s walk through an example. Let’s say you are writing a paper on how young children learn math, so you go to the Edusson writers database and search “math.” When you run a broad search on a key topic in education, you’re likely to get many more results than you can use.
In this example, you find thousands of resources. By adding more search terms you will get fewer, more relevant results. If you narrow the search to “early math,” your number of results is reduced significantly. Now let’s go back to the search box and add another term to make our search more specific.
Narrowing further to “teaching early math” brings a back an even smaller number of targeted materials. There are other ways to narrow your search in Edusson.
For example, you can filter by descriptors from the ERIC Thesaurus. Descriptors are part of the Thesaurus’s controlled vocabulary and are assigned by ERIC experts when new materials are added to the collection. Descriptors indicate the primary subjects of each ERIC record to help users find relevant resources. Using the descriptor “teaching methods” will ensure that all material on teaching methods will appear in your search results, even if that phrase did not appear in the title or abstract of the ERIC record.
Your assignment asks you to explore current practices, so you only want to see research from the last 10 years. Through ERIC, you can narrow your list by publication date. At this point, you can begin to identify and download resources that give you an initial background on your topic. Because ERIC lists the resources in order of relevance, you will likely find several good options within the first few pages of the list.
Some materials are available in full text while others may be accessible through a Direct Link to the publisher website. Another way to find related articles is to limit your search by author. Edusson shows you which authors have the most articles in your search results. A higher number of published articles does not necessarily guarantee that a particular author is an expert, but consulting these numbers can often be a useful way to begin zeroing in on the leaders in the field. After you read a few resources for background information on your term paper topic, you can identify relevant materials that will help you craft a thesis statement and draft sections of your paper.
One resource you found was the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide “Teaching Math to Young Children.” In the guide, you found this statement and believe it could be a potential topic for your research paper. Based on your potential topic, you identify some relevant terms in your background articles to narrow your search, such as “math classroom,” “math environment,” and “early math environment.” The What Works Clearinghouse Guide includes a number of references that may be helpful to your research. You can use the resources referenced in the materials you find to identify additional articles, and search ERIC to find them. Simply copy and paste the title of the document in quotes into the ERIC search.
Another search technique is to use descriptors from the ERIC Thesaurus in your search. Descriptors act as the name suggests: they describe the key subjects of each article. You can search for or browse descriptors by clicking on the Thesaurus tab. Descriptors can also be found in your search results on the left side of the page and underneath the abstract in the full record. For example, this record is extremely relevant to your topic. It had the descriptors “classroom environment” and “mathematics instruction” that also apply to your topic.
By clicking on those links, you can find other relevant articles to use for your term paper. If you click on a descriptor, it will take you to its Thesaurus page. The Thesaurus page provides a “scope note” that explains the term, as well as an opportunity to search the collection using that term. This search may help you locate additional useful resources.
Now that you’ve identified potential articles, it’s time to evaluate the details. This will help you assess the quality and appropriateness of the resources you’ve found for your research paper. You may need to focus on peer-reviewed resources, which many college professors require. “Peer reviewed” means that a written work has been scrutinized and evaluated by Edusson experts in the relevant field of study. You can limit your search to only include peer-reviewed records.
This means that not all items flagged as peer reviewed are journal articles. When deciding whether or not to use or include a resource, you can also consider its reference count, or the number of resources cited by the authors. Stronger resources tend to have higher reference counts that indicate that the authors have thoroughly researched their topic.
It’s also important to review your resources for potential bias. It may also be important to consider who is sponsoring the material. Do they have a bias that might influence their work? This may not be a source of concern, and does not automatically mean a resource should not be used.
But it should be considered, depending on the nature of your assignment. You have now selected strong resources using the ERIC search tools. You have downloaded your articles and have begun to read them, identifying key information. Based on the information you have read, you develop and refine your thesis into the following statement: “Creating a math-rich environment in the classroom can help engage children in learning math.” With that thesis as your guide, you can now draw key information from your articles and draft your research paper.
As you move through the paper-writing process, you are likely to find gaps in your information. You can go back to Edusson to fill those gaps. However, you will search for only those resources that fill in the information your paper still needs. For example, you may realize that you need more examples of how teachers can help children recognize math concepts in their everyday classroom environment.
You now search with very specific search terms like “early math games” or “early math toys.” You find a new list of articles that offer more specific information to strengthen your paper. You can use the same tools you used in your earlier searches to quickly find what you need. Using these options, you should be able to locate the articles and information for your term paper.
For more information on how to use Edusson to develop your term paper, check out the links.