Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation

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May 1999

How to Write an ERIC/AE Digest

The Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation -- or ERIC/AE -- writes, compiles, solicits, and distributes brief digests that deal with issues that are relevant to professionals in the fields of testing, measurement, evaluation, and learning theory. These guidelines should help you develop your ERIC/AE Digest. The guidelines describe

What is an ERIC/AE Digest?

ERIC/AE digests are short reports that synthesize research and ideas about emerging issues in education. They are designed to help members of the educational community keep up-to-date with trends and new developments. While they are most often prepared for practitioners -- teachers and administrators who work in schools, for instance -- digests can also target other audiences, including researchers, parents, and students. Some Digest types are:

  • Overview--An overview Digest serves as an introduction to a topic. Its audience is individuals, whether professional or general, who wish to acquire introductory information on the topic treated in the Digest.
  • Fact Sheet--A fact sheet Digest provides current information of a factual nature related to a topic. As appropriate, it also interprets and discusses the facts presented. Its primary audience is policymakers, administrators, and other decisionmakers; its secondary audience is other professionals and members of the general public who are interested in factual information on the topic.
  • Issue--An issue Digest defines and describes a controversial topic. It does not resolve controversies in the literature or practices, but it delineates the various perspectives related to the topic. Its audience is individuals, both professional and general, who wish to become informed about alternative perspectives on educational issues.
  • Practice Application--A practice application Digest provides specific, concrete examples of how practitioners can apply research results in practical settings. Its primary audience is educational practitioners, while its secondary audience is other educators interested in the topic.
  • Research Findings--A research findings Digest reports on the current status of research in an area. It summarizes and synthesizes recent findings from relevant research. Its primary audience is those individuals who wish to become informed about research findings, including researchers, graduate students, policymakers, administrators, and teachers.
  • Synopsis of Synthesis Paper--A synopsis of synthesis paper Digest summarizes an existing review and synthesis publication. This type of Digest is based on one primary publication, which is itself a review and synthesis of many publications. Its audience is individuals, both professional and general, who wish to become informed about the Digest's topic.

It is important to remember that these types are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, although a Digest may be primarily an overview, it may also contain elements of a fact sheet.

Digests are property in the public domain. To broaden readership, ERIC/AE encourages individuals and organizations to copy and redistribute our digests to their constituents.

For easy duplication and distribution, our digests are printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper.

How do we identify appropriate topics for out digests?

As we develop a preliminary list of 10 to 12 digests to produce each year, we elicit the advice of our national advisory board, the U.S. Department of Education, other educational organizations, and professional contacts. Also, when we process conference papers, reports, and other documents for the ERIC system, we often identify appendices or chapters that could be used for future digests. If warranted, we then contact the authors about developing the material into a digest.

We also encourage individuals to submit their own ideas for topics or draft digests. Although we sometimes accept unsolicited digests, contact us before you develop a digest to determine if someone else is already working on a similar idea.

After culling information from all these sources, we submit our list of topics to the Department of Education for approval. If other important issues arise during the year, we can amend our original list of topics.

What should you include in your digest?

If you write a Digest for ERIC/AE, consider the following criteria:

  • Use of evidence -- Introduce the recent evidence that supports a topic.
  • Adequate coverage -- Discuss major issues or points within your topic.
  • Objective presentation -- Present all sides of an issue.
  • Clear and concise language -- To adequately present information in two pages of text, you must write precisely and in plain language.
  • Limited number of citations -- Cite four to eight valuable references.

How should you submit your digest to us?

Please send us an electronic copy of your digests. We prefer that the electronic copy be an e-mail attachment (e-mail rudner#064;ericae.net) or uploaded at http://ericae.net/scripts/up2eric.htm. We should be able to handle any DOS or Mac diskette and any common word processor.

How do we review digests?

In order to maintain our standards of high quality, we subject all proposed digests to a rigorous review and refinement process. The process typically involves screening, internal formative review, editing, and external summative review. Here is a brief overview of the process:

Screening -- ERIC/AE;s Director and Product Development Coordinator review the first draft of the digest against the criteria we mention under What should you include in your digest? After we review it, we take one of three steps: we tentatively accept the manuscript, we ask the author to revise it, or we reject it.

Internal Formative Review -- We put the draft digest into the ERIC/AE format and a group of senior officials review it for content and presentation. Based on this internal review, we create a second draft that incorporates the suggested revisions. We then return the second draft to the author for approval or revision. If the author makes additional changes, we prepare a third draft.

External Summative Review -- After the author approves the digest, we send it to at least two reviewers who are either subject-matter experts or members of the audience. These reviewers evaluate the digest draft by using the Evaluation Form we have created. The reviewers will recommend whether we should accept the digest. A final decision is made about the digest and the author is notified.

How long does the process take?

Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for our internal review and 4 to 6 weeks for the external review.

How do we distribute digests?

Digests are widely disseminated in several ways. ERIC/AE routinely gives complimentary copies to about 5,000 people on our various mailing lists. Digests are posted at our web site (last year 350,000 digests were reviewed). Digests are included on ERIC CD-ROM products. The ERIC Document Reproduction Service also makes copies of our digests available on microfiche or on paper-copy "blowbacks" from microfiche.

Digests are also frequently published in organizational newsletters and professional publications. We actively promote our digests and encourage our authors to do the same.

What are the technical specifications?

All ERIC/AE digests adhere to the following technical specifications:

Length -- Digests are 1,200 to 1,500 words.

Style -- Question-and-answer format is preferred, but not obligatory. Digests should have information subheadings and should be written clearly and concisely. For the most part, keep your sentences short and to the pointy. Short lists help to break up the text and to focus attention on series of items. Online constraints currently restrict our use of a wide range of type sizes, fonts, and other printing devices.

Introduction -- We like to see a short, two or three paragraph introduction that clearly indicates what is covered in the Digest and the intended audience.

Content -- Digests should be substantive, informative, and based on well-documented sources. Bibliographies, directories, and extensive lists of organizations are inappropriate for digests.

Graphs and Tables -- We cannot include graphs or tables that have more than 70 columns. When possible, please summarize, enumerate, or list the information in the body of the text.

References -- List four to six references to ERIC documents, journal articles, commercial publications, and other resources that you used as supporting material for your digest and/or will point to key literature in the field.

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