IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

How ERIC is Helping Students

By Erin Pollard, ERIC Project Officer, NCEE

Over the past several years, the staff of ERIC has worked hard to get to know its users—we want to understand who uses ERIC and how they are using it. We found that the most common users are college undergraduates using the ERIC electronic library to write research papers as part of their school work. We also learned that they often weren’t searching for the best resources to meet their needs.

For example, some users told the ERIC help desk they were writing a paper for an introductory “contemporary issues in education” course, but they were requesting documents from over 20 years ago. Also, some of the documents they wanted were not peer-reviewed or particularly relevant to their topic. It became clear that we could do a better job addressing our most frequent users’ needs.

First, we redesigned the ERIC website to be more friendly and intuitive for those who are not familiar with traditional search methods, making it more likely they would get the best results (learn more about searching ERIC). Second, we worked to develop tools to help novice users, including a new series of how-to videos.

The first video in this new series is aimed at students—Using ERIC to Write a Research Paper. The ERIC team worked with undergraduate faculty members to outline a step-by-step approach to describe how a student should begin a search process, refine their results, and use different fields to find the resources they need. The video describes how to use ERIC to find full-text resources and how users can know that they found right resources.

We asked school of education faculty and librarians for their thoughts on this video and received a lot of positive feedback. Some professors said that they would link to this video on their syllabi and post it on their course management systems, while librarians have posted it on their content management system, called LibGuides. Take a look and see what you think.  And if you have feedback on this or any other ERIC videos, or suggestions for new videos and tools, let us know through the ERIC Help Desk.