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I would like to clarify under what conditions questions should be tagged with certain very general tags, such as , , and .

These tags convey meaningful information in certain situations; for example, it makes sense to tag a question about professors' salaries with .

But given that a huge portion of questions on this site involve students and/or professors doing something in a university setting, it seems to me that without very specific guidelines for applying these tags, they have the potential to be overused to the point of being meaningless. For example, is there any benefit to tagging a question about an authorship dispute between PhD students with , , and ?

Can anyone offer specific guidelines on how to apply these and other very general tags so that they will be useful?

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I think the problem is more general than just those specific tags.

I would be extremely interested in usage statistics of our tags. Not how often tags are being used for questions, but how often somebody actually searches for a specific tag. My underlying assumption is that many of our tags are essentially useless, as they are so general, and their use so ill-defined, that nobody actually uses them for their intended purpose (to find questions fitting their interest). For instance, I can hardly imagine the person that would be interested in questions tagged , but not all other questions on academia.SE.

To address your concrete question:

Can anyone offer specific guidelines on how to apply these and other very general tags so that they will be useful?

I cannot. What I would encourage, though, is a deeper discussion about how tags are being used in this stack exchange, and whether we can and should clean this up from ground up. I could, for instance, imagine having a smallish number of fixed tags, a la meta, with really well-defined semantics and which are only changed based on meta discussions.

  • +1 for these parts of your answer: many of our tags are essentially useless, their use [is] so ill-defined and the idea of cleaning up the tags. – Enthusiastic Engineer Sep 1 '14 at 18:13
  • I also think that in the help center, the question about tagging should also be reviewed that the user of the website become more familiar with the essential use of the tags. – Enthusiastic Engineer Sep 1 '14 at 18:16
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    Don't forget that those tags can also be used if you have a question about something like financing of PHD's you will search for finance plus the tag phd to limit yourself to that. As a limiting factor, not as the base of your search as you were expecting. Now, that's not to say that many people do so currently, but that's just because the search engine isn't as good as it should be~ – David Mulder Sep 4 '14 at 7:00
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I have been retagging some new and old questions lately and found much too many questions tagged with one of the mentioned tags, which do not even contain this word in title or body. Due to this, I think that the only way to keep these tags clean is to control every single new question.

Can anyone offer specific guidelines on how to apply these and other very general tags so that they will be useful?

When retagging, I have been going by the philosophy to keep those tags only, if they can be expected to be essential to the question or answer, for example, if the situation necessarily involves some of the respective persons to be a professor (and not just any supervisor) or if it was crucial that a university was involved and not a research lab or some other institution.

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The "University" tag seems to be completely redundant. At least in British English, "academia" and "universities" are synonyms: it's impossible to ask a question about one that isn't a question about the other.

  • I consider research centers that are not directly affiliated with a university (e.g., the NIH labs in the US or MRC institutes in the UK) to be part of academia but not reasonable to use the university tag. – StrongBad Nov 10 '14 at 10:03
  • @StrongBad Good point. So I guess "University" only covers about 99.5% of our questions! – David Richerby Nov 10 '14 at 10:03

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