Thursday, July 29, 2021

Why You Should Try Refining Search Results According to Domain

Refining Google search results according to site or domain can be a fantastic way for teachers and students to locate websites that they might not otherwise find but still contain useful information. This is because, as we know, a website can have excellent information about a topic but not rank well in Google search results.

To effectively utilize the option to refine search results according to site or domain you first need to understand what a top-level domain is. Common examples of top-level domains are .edu, .org, and .com. There are also top-level domains for countries, .ca is the top-level domain for Canada, .ch is the top-level domain for Switzerland. A list of country top-level domains is maintained on Wikipedia ( Top-level country domains are sometimes subdivided by state or province. For example, in the United States you’ll find that many public schools use a domain structure of (Maine public schools) or (Texas public schools). Put any state abbreviation into the aforementioned pattern and you’ll find websites from schools in that state.

There are two uses for refining search results according to site or domain that I frequently share with teachers and students. The first is to compare perspectives on literature about a topic. If you want to quickly compare reporting from China with reporting from South Korea about the same topic, conduct one search with results limited to .cn domains and conduct another with results limited to .kr domains.

The other use case for refining search results by domain that I frequently share is to refine a search to (or other state abbreviation) in order to find materials that are appropriate for students. Publishing on a domain typically requires that a person has to work for a public school. Knowing that, we can then have a fairly high degree of confidence that information published on that domain is going to be appropriate for students in terms of the topic itself, reading level, and depth of content. For example, if I’m looking for information about the War of 1812 and I find it on a sixth grade teacher’s resource website, I’m confident that my sixth and seventh grade students will be able to understand the material on that site.

One more interesting use of refining search results according to domain is to locate Google Documents, Slides, and Sheets that have been published online. Most Google Workspace users know that they can publish Docs, Slides, and Sheets to the web as simple stand-alone websites. If you refine your search results by domain to you will find all of the public Google Documents related to your search term. A short video demonstration of how that works can be seen here.

It should be noted that you can refine searches according to domain without opening Google’s Advanced Search menu. You can simply add site: .edu (or any other domain) to the end of your search term. However, I’ve found that it’s easier for students to remember to open the advanced search menu and select “narrow your results by site or domain” than it is to remember to add site: edu to the end of a query.

This blog post was written by Richard Byrne and originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere it has been used without permission. 

These Geosciences Lessons Rock

K-5 GeoSource is a great resource produced by the American Geosciences Institute. On K-5 GeoSource you will find free lesson plans, science fair project ideas, links to virtual activities, and resources for professional development. The first time I looked at the site back in 2009 it had a distinct Web 1.0 feel. The site has improved of late to make it easier to find the materials you want. A few of the resources that I looked at were this free chart about types of rocks, a science fair project guide, and a short Geoscientist career guide.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned above, K-5 GeoSource isn't the fanciest site you'll find on the web, if you need to find some ideas to use in your classroom, K-5 GeoSource is definitely worth bookmarking. The most useful aspect of the site might be the science fair project guide that you and your students could work through to plan a hands-on Earth science project.

Other Search Engines for Students to Try

While Google is the default search engine for many students (either mentally or technically because of browser settings), there are other public search engines for them to use. In some cases using an alternate search engine will give students a different list of results and or may give them the information they’re seeking a little faster than Google does. Here’s a short list of alternative search engines for students to try:
  • Bing 
  • Wolfram Alpha 
  • DuckDuckGo 
  • Get The Research
A search on often produces the same results as a search on The difference in the results is found in the order in which they are presented. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one set of results is better than the other. It simply means that students may end up looking at different websites because of the rankings produced by each search engine.

Wolfram Alpha
Wolfram Alpha bills itself as a computational search engine. It’s probably best known for helping students solve math problems as they can enter a problem and be shown the steps to solve it. An often overlooked aspect of Wolfram Alpha is the ability to enter a query and see a fact sheet displayed about the subject of the query. For example, entering “Martin Luther King” into Wolfram Alpha will result in seeing a fact sheet containing a list of key biographical facts about King’s life. Enter “Martin Luther King” and “John F. Kennedy” as part of the same query on Wolfram Alpha and you’ll see a side-by-side display of fact sheets about each man and see a timeline of where their lives overlapped. For students who need to quickly find just the basic facts about a topic, a query on Wolfram Alpha often leads them to the information they need faster than entering the same query on

DuckDuckGo is increasing in popularity because of its claim to offer private, untracked searching. Whereas Google and Bing will track your search history (through users’ Google or Microsoft accounts and or via browser settings), DuckDuckGo doesn’t track search history. There is a potential benefit to students using DuckDuckGo in addition to the privacy aspect. By not tracking search habits, DuckDuckGo’s search results are not influenced by a user’s past search and click histories. This has the potential to break students out of a bubble of results that are influenced by their past actions.

DuckDuckGo does offer search results refinement tools similar to those offered by Google. However, you do have to enter those refinements into your query as there is not an “advanced search” menu as there is for See the video here for directions on refining DuckDuckGo search results. 

Get The Research
Get The Research is a fairly small search engine that is focused on helping people find academic articles. A search on Get The Research will yield a small summary of the searched topic and a list of published academic articles. The articles in the search results will be a mix of open-access articles and paywalled articles. You can filter results to show only open-access articles.