RB Search Gizmos

Go Beyond Site:Edu With Super Edu Search

If I were ever limited to one search modifier on Google, I’d make it site:edu.

Why? Because edu is one of the few major domain names (along with gov and mil) that requires authentication of some sort. Edu Web space in general is less plagued with spam and bots the way general Web space is. Further, it’s filled with teachers and researchers and scientists and all manner of people in various stages of discovery. Edu Web space is a rich resource for mining.

Which makes the site:edu modifier useful for its simplicity, but also frustrating in its simplicity. You’re searching all edu Web space with no filtering at all. You can search for individual schools (site:ncsu.edu) or even groups of schools (site:ncsu | site:duke.edu | site:unc.edu) but that’s still a crude and time-consuming way to explore this marvelous space.

This search problem has bothered me for a long time and I’ve made various limited, failed attempts to address it. I hadn’t thought about it for a while and certainly not since I started learning JavaScript. Then I came across an API from the US Department of Education and thought, “You know what? I wonder…”

So I wondered all weekend and made Super Edu Search. There are two versions, a state-based version at  https://researchbuzz.github.io/Super-Edu-Search/ , and a zip/radius based version at https://researchbuzz.github.io/Super-Edu-Search/index2.html . Both versions require a free Data.gov API key, which you can get at https://api.data.gov/signup/ .

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Super Edu Search uses data from the Department of Education to refine your edu Web space search. You can limit the university space you’re searching by ownership type (public, private non-profit, private for-profit), by Minority/Gender Emphasis (including HBCU, Tribal College/University, Men-Only, and Women-Only), and by religious affiliation (66 options!)

After you click the Search Edu Space button, Super Edu Search sends your parameters to the Department of Education API, which returns a JSON result of matching universities. Super Edu Search parses that, slices the returned domain names into groups of 15, and turns them into Google search URLs. When I do a search for “climate change” in the Web space of all Hawaiian universities, I get two links.

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Click a link and a Google search result will open in a new tab:

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These results look very different than the Web spaces of, say, all the universities in Iowa:

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There are other ways you can explore this space, too. Say you’re interested in learning more about the successor of John Paul I, who was recently beafied. (Unfortunately John Paul I himself was Pope for only a short time so he’s a terrible search example.)  I did a search for intitle:”John Paul II” in the Web space of all Roman Catholic-affiliated universities in Illinois.

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I get a reasonable number of results (3 pages) and they’re very information-rich.

One limitation: the total dataset at the Department of Education has something like 6500 institutions in it. I’ve limited your search results to 200, though, for two reasons: a) I don’t want Data.gov mad at me, and b) You and I both know you’re not going to go through several hundred generated URLs.

In my testing I’ve found Super Edu Search interesting for all kinds of searches. Regional things like state government legislation/controversies/concerns (search public Florida universities for “don’t say gay”), famous people in their home state, all kinds of agricultural concerns, sports – anything that might have specificity in the filtered spaces available.

The data I’m filtering by here is only a fraction of what the Department of Education offers via its API. I feel like I’ve found a shiny new toy box to play with. Stay tuned.

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