Friday, August 27, 2010

Article Note: On When ERIC is useful, with some follow-up

Citation for the article:

Corby, Kate, "When is ERIC Useful? A Background and Current Overview of the Education Resources Information Center." The Reference Librarian 50.2 (2009): 137-149.  

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

This article updates and supplements the previous article I read on the topic, which discussed alternatives to ERIC. I still teach EBSCO's Education Research Complete as the primary database for education research, but I do mention ERIC mostly as a supplement and for its thesaurus. Let me mention another small update note after I wrote the note for the other article: We finally acquired Web of Science for the library. It's amazing what the threat of losing or not getting accreditation (or reaffirmation, which is the new term) does for money to suddenly appear for library development and enhancement. I am being perfectly honest and blunt in this case: were it not for that, we would not have been able to purchase WoS. Now my job is promoting more use of WoS for the education faculty as well and discovering all it can do for us in terms of education research. I like having options, but I digress. In the other article, I do discuss some tips for teaching research in education that are very applicable and relevant, so those of you who do instruction may want to go and look at the other link.

Getting back to Corby's article, we get an overview of ERIC and its current condition. The article starts by providing an overview of ERIC's development history and design. ERIC was created to bring education research, which was being done all over the nation, under one roof. This is where the clearinghouses structure came in at first. ERIC also developed the Document Reproduction Service (EDRS), which served to provide those microfiche sets that some libraries still have (we still have our set, but I am not sure for how long since there is some pressure to weed it out. Please see the Strayer article, for some notes on why I have doubts about totally weeding out the fiche set). The other big decision ERIC made was using a commercial service. In 2004, the clearinghouses were closed, and ERIC moved to just being a database. From there, the author goes on to discuss how good and relevant ERIC may be in this day and age.

According to Corby, of the major education indexes, "ERIC claims the last number of journals covered" (142). Corby compares ERIC with products from Wilson, Gale, and EBSCO. However, she notes that ERIC is moving to greater coverage. She agrees that right now EBSCO emulates the gold standard when it comes to coverage (143). We do have to note that ERIC not only covers journals; it also covers conference papers, government reports, monographs, and other grey literature. This additional coverage gives ERIC an advantage. Another advantage is the thesaurus. As I have noted before, you can use the thesaurus not only in ERIC but also use its terms for suggestions of terms to type in other databases.

Overall, Corby concludes that ERIC is still a vital service, even if it has a lower profile. Sure, there are other resources that are more visible (at least if you are on a college campus with an EBSCO subscription), but ERIC is still a good resource. Corby explains why we would miss it if it was gone: "The library community would miss ERIC because it provides generally excellent specific indexing of articles. For in-depth searching on elusive education topics, it is a lifesaver. None of the competing products is as good" (147). So you see that ERIC still has some strong advantages. In addition, "many teachers and principals rely on ERIC as their major source of education information. Without it, they would lack access to the professional literature" (147). Many of these educators are probably using the government web version of the database, which would not have links to full-text as EBSCO's version would (but that is mostly because EBSCO links full-text you may have via other databases you also subscribe to). Corby makes a note that librarians should be reaching out more to those teachers and principals. She writes that "those are the people that librarians should be reaching out to, making sure they know how to use our library catalogs and interlibrary loan to access the items not available from ERIC servers" (147).

Link provided in the article to the ERIC Users' Committee, a unit of ACRL. I have used the link that seems more current (given ALA's recent Web page revamp).

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