BY BILL FERRIS
Google’s advanced search function lets you filter search results by reading level. Simply click the “Advanced Search” link next to the search bar on the Google home page (or directly underneath the search box on any search results page). In the “Need more tools?” section, you can tell Google to only return results within your reading level of choice (basic, intermediate, or advanced). Google will also give you a graph that breaks down the percentage of results that fall into each reading level.
This is a handy tool for elementary students. It’s also useful for folks who want to research a super-advanced topic they know nothing about, and want to find resources written in plain English.
“The feature is based primarily on statistical models we built with the help of teachers. We paid teachers to classify pages for different reading levels, and then took their classifications to build a statistical model. With this model, we can compare the words on any webpage with the words in the model to classify reading levels. We also use data from Google Scholar, since most of the articles in Scholar are advanced.”
Since language isn’t always compatible with statistical models, you’ll want to use your own judgment when determining the reading levels of the results you get. Still, filtering by reading level may be a good way to make sure you and your students get the search results that are most helpful to you.