Faculty doing research in nursing education today are challenged by the growing amount of available data in this field. Computer-age technology facilitates access to such data, but the judgment of where to search remains with the individual researcher. For nurse educators, this search encompasses not only the fields of nursing and medicine but also the field of education. There, the world's largest education database is the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC).
ERIC is a system - the national system for bibliographic control of the journal and document literature of education. Among the social science databases, ERIC is the most used. It vies with MEDLARS as the most used database in academia.
ERIC emphasizes two key concepts: 1) a focus on the so-called "fugitive" literature, that is, hard to get, unpublished literature; and 2) a decentralized approach to collecting, processing and disseminating information. It indexes and annotates articles from 760 journals.
ERIC has three major components: a central office, clearinghouses and support system services. Central ERIC is a unit within the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. It provides funding, monitoring, and administrative support for the system.
To accommodate the diversity of interests in education, the system supports 16 clearinghouses. Each one of these addresses a major discipline, academic level or issue in education and is staffed with subject experts. The clearinghouses have three major functions: database building, product development and dissemination. They are located across the nation and are linked by a state of the art computer-based system.
Supporting system services operate either contractually within ERIC or outside of it. The ERIC Processing and Reference Facility, within ERIC, maintains the systems technical quality control of document processing, edits clearinghouse data and inputs this onto magnetic tape files. The magnetic tapes are used for producing two monthly abstract journals, Resources in Education (RIE) and Current Index to Journals in Education (CUE), and are adapted by database vendors for computer searching and retrieval services. The second internal service, the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS), produces and sells microfiche and paper copies of documents. Outside support for the system is provided by several on-line retrieval vendors and the publishers of the CUE and the Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors, which is used to index the literature in the database.
Houston (1987) defines nursing education as: "formal instruction in nursing education offered by a school, college, or university, often affiliated with a hospital .. . includes two year, three year, four year, and graduate programs." Prior to 1980, references to nursing education were usually indexed under the term "nursing," which had been in the index since the beginning of the system in 1966. Two other terms, "nurses" and "school nurses" were also in the original system. The term "nurse practitioner" was added in November 1982.
A search of nursing terms covering the time span from 1981-1987 yielded a total of 1217 references. When these were further refined for those that were categorized as research, 137 emerged. Eighty-five references were under nursing education and research. This represents data of prime importance to researchers in nursing education. There were 791 references under nursing education that are of general interest to nurse educators in many settings. These included articles published in journals that are cited as "EJ" (for ERIC journal), and documents that are mostly unpublished literature and are cited as "ED" (for ERIC document).
The references on research in nursing education were examined to identify overall content. The following categories were created: research, academia, professional and clinical issues, programs, educational technology, administration and miscellaneous. Specific content in these categories includes:
Research. This category contains references on nursing education research in general, evaluation of nursing research in reports, research in curricula and education programs, research methodologies, research tools in nursing education, and market research.
Academia. This category refers primarily to concerns on how to handle research within a curriculum. Documents on nursing students and faculty are also in this grouping.
Professional and Clinical Issues. References on nursing theory and practice, as well as clinical concerns such as clinical decision-making in nursing, are under this category.
Programs. References about specific levels of nursing education such as junior college, baccalaureate, graduate and continuing education programs are in this category.
Educational Technology. Supports to teaching and learning are in this category. Topics include library and learning resources, computer-based instruction, models for assessing learning needs in adults, and classroom teaching techniques.
Administration. This category reflects administrative concerns in both academia and service settings.
Miscellaneous. This category contains documents on various related topics such as gerontology, public affairs, culture, and international aspects of nursing education.
The categories described above characterize some of the content areas found under the descriptors of "nursing education" and "research" in the ERIC system. Many of these references also appear under other descriptors found in the Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors. Decisions must be made by each individual searcher regarding descriptors to be used, time periods searched and whether to search document literature as well as published journals for information.
How to Access ERIC
Manual. For a manual search, look in the Subject Indexes of RIE and CUE. These are monthly publications that also have semiannual and annual editions.
Online Computer. This service is available from three major vendors of database services: BRS Information Technologies, DIALOG Information Services and ORBIT Information Service.
Compact-Disk Read-Only-Memory (CDROM) Services. These are provided mainly by DIAIX)G Information Services, Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and Silver Platter Information Services.
Home Computer with Modem. This can be linked to BRS Information Technologies After Dark Service or DIALOG Information Service's Knowledge Index.
Home Computer Using Floppy Disks. Disks containing portions of the ERIC database are available through subscription from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources.
THE SEARCH PROCESS
Find an ERIC Information Service Provider. Brandhorst and Eustace, (1986), identify 891 locations that provide ERICrelated services and information. Almost 600 of these providers are located in institutions of higher education; 86 are in government agencies (federal, state or local); and 36 are in public libraries. The remaining locations are scattered among ERIC clearinghouses, and profit and nonprofit organizations. There are 120 of these providers located outside of the United States. If a local university or public library does not have a directory of providers, contact the ERIC Processing and Reference Facility or an ERIC clearinghouse.
Frame your specific topic. After deciding possible categories for which you want to search, use the provider's Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors to choose appropriate index terms used by ERIC to categorize each reference in the database.
Examine your descriptors. After choosing the best descriptors for your topic, find these terms in the Alphabetical Descriptor Display. Note the Scope Notes (SNs), Broad Terms (BTs), Narrow Terms (NTs), or Related Terms (RTs) that may help in expanding your list of descriptors.
Choose your method. The various methods for access have been outlined previously. All of these methods will provide you with a list of references.
Follow-up. After examining the references on the list, access the document literature (ED) via microfiche at most libraries or purchase the documents from EDRS. Journal articles (EJ) are available through libraries or reprint services.
Entering Nursing Education Documents into ERIC
Published articles in the 760 journals that are indexed by ERIC are entered into the system after clearinghouse review and selection. If an article is not selected, it may be due to an over representation of references on the same subject or cost constraints within a clearinghouse.
Researchers in nursing education who wish to submit reports, speeches, or papers given at conferences can contact either the ERIC Processing and Reference Facility or a clearinghouse in the general subject area of their document.
The two clearinghouses that contained most of the references for nursing education were the Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and the Clearinghouse on Higher Education at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
The ERIC Processing and Reference Facility is located at: 4350 East- West Highway, Suite 1100, Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4475. Telephone. (301) 656-9723.
- Brandhorst, T., & Eustace, J. (Eds.). (1986). Directory of ERIC information service providers. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Houston, JE. (Ed.). (1987). Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors (11th ed). Phoenix: ORYX.
- McLaughlin, PW. (1987). New access points to ERIC-CD-ROM versions ERIC digest. Syracuse: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources.
- Seiser, V. (1987). ERIC through the ages: Search for information about specific age groups in the ERIC database. Database. 20(4), 75-82.