Researching the topic "English as a Second Language" or ESL, for short, in article and fulltext databases is very straightforward. Articles on this topic will almost always have that phrase or the abbreviation ESL in the title, abstract, or in the additional descriptors that the database indexers add.
Searching for books on this topic in the Online Catalog is a bit more complicated. Of course you can keyword-search by the phrase or abbreviation above, but there is no guarantee that every book title will necessarily contain these keywords.
In order to find all available books on this topic you will need to do an advanced search combining two (or more) related subject headings (that is, the additional keywords added to the catalog record for each book). These two subject headings are:
Language acquisition (this heading refers to what we normally call “First language acquisition”) and
English—Study and teaching—Foreign speakers
I have created the interactive search link below for this basic search. You can click on it to perform a live search for books in the catalog:
These will be for the most general topic. Searches can be narrowed in scope; for example for adult ESL, a third subject heading “Adult education” can be added to the search. To find materials on speakers with a specific primary language, the name of the language and “speakers” (replacing “foreign speakers”) can be added to the string of the second heading, for example:
English language—Study and teaching—Chinese speakers
This is only a brief tip, so if you are having any difficulty with you search strategies please contact me (email@example.com) and I’ll be glad to assist in formulating effective search strategies.