A thesaurus provides a standard language or set of terms with which
to describe a subject area. Applied to indexing of a database, it indicates
to a searcher which terms to use to retrieve the maximum number of relevant
The thesaurus terms are used by indexers to describe the contents of publications in a consistent, comprehensive and concise manner. These terms are listed in the Descriptors field (DE=) of each record added to the database.
When logged into CSA Illumina, you may browse for terms via a hierarchical, alphabetical, or rotated index display using our interactive Thesaurus Search. These display formats allow you to navigate the thesaurus alphabetically or through the hierarchical relationships between terms. After finding appropriate terms, you can submit a search for those terms in the database descriptor field.
The Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors, 13th Edition, contains
an alphabetical listing of terms used for indexing and searching in the ERIC
This word-by-word alphabetical display is probably the most
familiar since it provides a variety of information (a "display") for each Descriptor.
This includes a Scope Note, Use For (UF) and Use (USE) references,
Narrower Terms (NT), Broader Terms (BT), and Related Terms (RT). Each of these
segments of the Thesaurus display is explained in detail below.
A Scope Note is a brief statement of the intended usage of a
Descriptor. It may be used to clarify an ambiguous term or to restrict the usage
of a term. Special indexing notes are often included.
Devices, procedures, or sets of items that are
used to measure ability, skill, understanding, knowledge, or achievement (note:
use a more specific term if possible--this broad term corresponds to pubtype code
160 and should not be used except as the subject of a document)
Recommends use of a Narrower Term and directs indexers and
searchers to PUBTYPE category
The oral interpretation and presentation of
a work of literature to an audience (note: prior to mar80, the instruction "oral
interpretation, use interpretive reading" was carried in the thesaurus)
Alerts indexers and searchers to an earlier Thesaurus
Organized education without formal schooling
or institutionalization in which knowledge, skills, and values are taught by relatives,
peers, or other community members (note: do not confuse with "nonschool educational
programs" or the identifier "informal education")
Suggests another Descriptor or an Identifier that may be
UF (Use For)
The "UF" reference is employed generally to solve problems of
synonymy occurring in natural language. Terms following the UF notation are
not used in indexing. They most often represent either (1) synonymous
or variant forms of the main term, or (2) specific terms that, for purposes
of storage and retrieval, are indexed under a more general term. The examples
below illustrate both types of UFs:
Integration (Disabled Students)
Least Restrictive Environment (Disabled)
Regular Class Placement (1968 1978)
Continuous Learning (1967
Life Span Education
LABOR FORCE DEVELOPMENT
Human Resources Development
Manpower Development(1966 1980)
Crippled Children (1968
Orthopedically Handicapped 1968-1980)
Physical Handicaps (1966-1980)
A former Descriptor that has been downgraded to the status of
a UF term is accompanied by a "life span" notation in parentheses: e.g., (1966
1980). This indicates the time period during which the term was used in indexing.
It provides useful information for searching older printed indexes, or computer
files that have not been updated.
The USE reference, the mandatory reciprocal of the UF, refers
an indexer or searcher from a nonusable (nonindexable) term to the preferred
indexable term or terms.
In the examples below, there is only one USE term for each entry.
This means that there is a direct, one-to-one correlation in the ERIC system
from the UF to the USE term.
REGULAR CLASS PLACEMENT (1968 1978)
CONTINUOUS LEARNING (1967 1980)
USE LIFELONG LEARNING
ORTHOPEDICALLY HANDICAPPED (1968 1980)
USE PHYSICAL DISABILITIES
USE LABOR FORCE
A coordinate or multiple USE reference looks a little different.
The following example illustrates the use of two main terms together to represent
a single concept, both for indexing and searching:
FOLK DRAMA (1969 1980)
USE DRAMA AND FOLK CULTURE
BT (Broader Term) and NT (Narrower Term)
These indicate the existence of a hierarchical relationship
between a class and its subclasses. Narrower terms are included in the broader
class represented by the main entry. The [+] symbol beside a term indicates that
there are further narrower terms.
Academic Libraries [+]
Public Libraries [+]
Causal Models [+]
Role Models [+]
Student Writing Models
The Broader Term (BT) is the mandatory reciprocal of the NT.
Broader Terms include as a subclass the concept represented by the main (narrower)
Sometimes a term may have more than one Broader Term:
Reading Instruction [+]
Remedial Instruction [+]
NOTE: In ERIC, computer searching of a Broad Term
will not automatically retrieve documents representing the concepts of
its Narrower Terms, unless those NTs have also been assigned to the documents
in indexing (e.g., searching LIBRARIES will not automatically also
retrieve literature on SCHOOL LIBRARIES or any of the other NTs to LIBRARIES).
To search automatically the broad term and all its narrower terms, use the Explode
RT (Related Term)
Related terms have a close conceptual
relationship to the main term, but not the direct class/subclass relationship
described by BTs/NTs. Part-whole relationships, near-synonyms, and other conceptually
related terms, which might be helpful to the user, appear as RTs.
HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS
College Bound Students
High School Freshmen
High School Graduates
Noncollege Bound Students
MINIMUM COMPETENCY TESTING
Academic Achievement [+]
Academic Standards [+]
Basic Skills [+]
Competency Based Education [+]
National Competency Tests
A Parenthetical Qualifier is used to identify a particular indexable
meaning of a homograph. In other words, it discriminates between terms (either
Descriptors or USE references) that might otherwise be confused with each other.
Examples include LETTERS (ALPHABET) and LETTERS (CORRESPONDENCE); SELF EVALUATION
(INDIVIDUALS) and SELF EVALUATION (GROUPS).
NOTE: The Qualifier is considered an integral part
of the Descriptor and must be used with the Descriptor in indexing and searching.