Google has added a feature to its advanced search form that allows you to filter results by reading level or add information about a page’s reading level to the information in the results. Reading level is indicated as “basic,” “intermediate,” or “advanced.” Like most of what goes on underneath the Google hood, we aren’t given much information about how reading level is computed.
I am constitutionally against anything that could be construed as “dumbing down,” but I have to confess that I find this feature interesting. Working with first-year students in an academic library I often find myself wishing that we had a way to search bibliographic databases that would provide scholarly acceptable content that the students were actually able to comprehend. Something like this technology could be used in a bibliographic database, although I am sure its application in a reference setting would be potentially awkward and intellectual freedom issues would emerge.
In checking out this feature, I noticed that Google’s advanced search page includes some additions that I would have to call welcome and surprising from a librarian’s standpoint. If you haven’t looked at it for a while you should check it out (including the collapsed features at the bottom).