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Asking the community for tips on searching, in order to find answers and avoid duplicate questions.

So I have taken a look at the search section under help, and I have used the limiters there to do searches. But what I am finding is that the limits actually turn up less or don't help me avoid a duplicate (except in the case of is:question which turns out to actually be a more useful search term than almost anything else, and THAT's shoved under miscellaneous).

The search section under help gives search terms, but makes no judgement as to how well they work or any direction as to what's the best way to go about searching in a specific situation. That's good, of course, because it's informational and we can't know why a person is searching.

I will learn as I go, but just want to tap the community. Like just now, I searched the word search in meta, and by golly, the word search is used a lot.

I don't know if there's a way to build something with tips for the most common types of searches or if that would even be useful but, thought I would put it out there.

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    $\begingroup$ Since you're asking for tips rather than making a specific feature proposal, do you think tagging this discussion would be a better fit? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio May 3 '17 at 0:40
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    $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Wouldn't that be support rather than discussion? I agree that I see no feature-request in this question. $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 3 '17 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling good point. Erin, what he said. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio May 3 '17 at 13:17
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I've found that one of the best ways to find an existing question on any Stack Exchange site is to start to ask it. Type the title and then look at the list of questions it suggests -- often I find my answer there.

Other than that, is:question combined with tags ([tag-name]) and search keywords is often productive. If your keywords are ambiguous (for example, Mercury the planet and mercury the element), you can use - with terms or tags to exclude them (mercury -[planets] is:q).

If you don't find the question, you ask it, and somebody finds a duplicate, don't worry -- duplicates are valuable. The next person who searches the site might find your question and thus the answer (on the duplicate target).

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    $\begingroup$ I want to add that excluding terms and tags can be quite useful, too. For example some time ago I was searching for "mercury is:q" and realized that the term "mercury" could be used in multiple contexts. I then tried a search excluding planets by using "mercury -[planets] is:q", which gave me better results as I was searching for the chemical element, not the planet. This is mainly useful if the term you are searching for might be ambivalent and there are many results. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus May 3 '17 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I thought about deleting my duplicates, but it seems to be helpful for other people's searches. Plus there were answers. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby May 4 '17 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ This is what I was going to suggest too, the search is a bit hit and miss but the suggested duplicates when you start typing a question are pretty thorough. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks May 5 '17 at 10:05
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First of all, most things I remember as being here are things I answered. So if I'm trying to find something again, I start by searching my own posts. I also know what vocabulary I would have used.

Clicking on the rep number to get to your profile includes a search blank with a filter already filled in. Add the search words to that, to search your own posts.

A combination of a category tag and keywords can be handy, for those tags that tend to be used consistently.

If looking for existing content that you don’t recall reading before, just to see if the subject is addressed here, a keyword search might not turn it up if that specific word was not used. So try different words — not just synonyms, but try grasping for different handles on the concept.

Sometimes, you just have to skim the entire list of of specific tag.

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    $\begingroup$ Instead of going to your profile, you can use user:me. $\endgroup$ – Laurel May 7 '17 at 18:24

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