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More Database Handouts: Thesaurus Searching with EBSCOHost ERIC

Sometimes popular and general databases are not enough. Learn to search more social science, local, statistical, and education, and dictionary databases step-by-step.

Thesaurus Searching with EBSCOHost ERIC

Thesaurus Searching with Ebsco ERIC

The ERIC Thesaurus lists subject terms (descriptors) you can choose to build a precise search with incredibly powerful results. ERIC’s Thesaurus works because ERIC chooses detailed terms and applies them consistently to everything in its database. Building a search with ERIC’s Thesaurus on EBSCOhost ERIC feels clunky and counterintuitive, but the results are often worth the effort.


  1. First, make sure you know the main ideas for your topics. Most search topics contain two main ideas or concepts. For example: Teaching fairy tales in elementary school includes the main ideas fairy tales AND elementary school. A diagram of this search looks like this:


    Fairy tales taught in elementary school

  2. On the EBSCOHost ERIC screen, click Thesaurus which is written in white letters on the bright blue strip at the top of the window. The word is not all that conspicuous.


    finding ERIC's thesaurus

  3. Put one concept of your search topic into the second text box. This is NOT the search box. This is the browse box.


    Ready to start browsing

    Remember to insert only one main idea at a time, and that concepts can include short phrases as well as words.

  4. ERIC returns a list of subject terms. Usually you will see your main idea on top. If not, there will be a link leading to ERIC’s term for that idea.

    Here are the descriptors including Fairy Tales

  5. To learn more about your concept, or to find better synonyms for it, click on its blue link.

  6. If you are satisfied with your concept or one of its related terms, check off the box next to it.

  7. Then repeat Steps 1-6 for your other main idea.

  8. Now switch the small scroll bar box next to Add to AND. This is very important.


    making the roll box work

  9. Then click Add. EBSCOHost ERIC puts your search in the Search Box, all formatted and ready to go.


    The search is now ready to go!

  10. Click Search and enjoy some very precise results.

  11. Note: even with the Thesaurus, search results can occasionally be disappointing. When this happens, click on the article’s blue link, and then look carefully at the subject terms ERIC uses. Then begin a new Thesaurus Search.


    Assorted subject terms

    For teaching fairy tales to elementary students, Teaching Methods, might work better than Elementary.