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Thesaurus and Identifiers

Why should I use descriptors in my search?

All ERIC records are tagged with descriptors, which are used to indicate the subjects addressed in the article, report, or book indexed in ERIC. Descriptors can help you narrow your search to the most relevant materials matching your search criteria. See our video to find out how these terms can enhance your search.

How do I know what descriptors to use in my search?

There are two main methods for finding descriptors for your ERIC search: 1) by searching or browsing the ERIC Thesaurus, and 2) by reviewing descriptors that appear on the left side of the search results page and on relevant records in ERIC search results. Reading a descriptor’s scope note, or definition, can help you decide whether a descriptor will help in your search. The video explains how to find descriptors that match your research topic.

How many terms are in the Thesaurus?

The ERIC Thesaurus contains a total of 11,761 terms. There are 4,539 descriptors and 7,089 synonyms. There are also 133 dead terms which are no longer used as descriptors but remain in the Thesaurus to aid in searching older records.

How is the ERIC Thesaurus maintained?

The ERIC Thesaurus goes through periodic updates to ensure that it reflects the terminology used in ERIC content. Thesaurus updates capture new terms, such as new fields of study, and modify existing terms to reflect changes in terminology. The most recent Thesaurus update was in 2019, and it added 21 new descriptors and 19 synonyms. Changes were made to 184 terms. See the most recent list of updates on the Thesaurus Purpose and Scope page and the infographic depicting ERIC’s Thesaurus maintenance process: PDF on ERICHow ERIC Develops Thesaurus Terms. To learn more about the 2019 thesaurus update, and how the Thesaurus is maintained, see the recorded webinars below.

What is a dead term?

A dead term is a Thesaurus descriptor which is no longer used to tag ERIC content but remains in the Thesaurus to aid in searching older records. If you are looking for historical material, you may find it helpful to check the "Include Dead Terms" box when searching the Thesaurus.

What are identifiers?

Identifiers are proper nouns that provide additional subject information about an article, report, or book indexed in ERIC. Identifiers fall into three categories: (1) locations; (2) laws, policies, and programs; and (3) assessments and surveys. ERIC records are tagged with identifiers when appropriate; there is no requirement that an identifier be assigned to every document. They can be used as limiters to help narrow your search. The infographic PDF on ERICWhat are ERIC Identifiers? shows the use of identifiers to enhance searches in ERIC.

How can identifiers help me in a search?

A search using identifiers is more specific than a keyword search – it will return only records tagged with the identifier. See ERIC’s Advanced Search Tips for guidance on how to search using identifiers and learn more about identifiers in our video.

How can I search for state-specific, or city-specific, studies?

ERIC includes location identifiers in records that are relevant to specific geographic locations. Location identifiers include country names, states, and cities. Use the format location:term where term is the name of a country, state, or city. City names are in parentheses following the state’s or country’s name, e.g., California (Los Angeles).

Does ERIC update identifiers?

The ERIC identifiers go through periodic updates to ensure that they reflect the terminology used in ERIC content. ERIC updated the list of identifiers in February 2019 adding 3 new law and policy identifiers and 21 assessment and survey identifiers. New law and policy identifiers include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, and Every Student Succeeds Act 2015. Some examples of the assessment and survey identifiers include the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NCES), Private School Universe Survey (NCES), and School Survey on Crime and Safety (NCES).

You can find identifiers that are relevant to your search in the limiters on the left side of the search results page.