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Choosing good tags for questions is a little hard for me. Despite reading the What are tags, and how should I use them? entry in the help center; choosing best tags is a little vague for me.

Could please give me clear clues on how to choose correct tags in an easier way? Please provide examples in your answers.

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If you click on a tag, you get a list of questions using that tag. Before applying the tag, ask yourself the following question:

Would I expect to see this question in a list of questions using this tag?

For example, I removed the "grades" tag which you applied to What, if any, roads are open to graduate schools for athletes with borderline grades? because the question is not about "grades" and "grading." I would not expect to see such a question come up in that context. I would expect to see it in a question about graduate admissions. I might also expect to see it in a list of questions about athletics.

However, don't tag or retag a question if you're not certain if a tag should apply. It's better not to edit tags, particularly on old questions, if you're not positive the tags you're adding are relevant. If you think something needs new tags, then you could suggest it as a comment instead of retagging.

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The guidelines I recommend are:

  1. First read the tag wiki excerpt for the tag you are thinking of very carefully. In particular, some words have dual or ambiguous meanings (e.g. our is about the academic discipline of law, as described in the tag wiki, not about legal problems faced by academics.) The tag wiki excerpt is supposed to define the scope of how the tag should be applied. If the tag wiki excerpt does not do this, either propose an edit to it (if you think you know how the tag should be used) or ask about that tag on meta (if you don't). If you think the excerpt does not match the way the tag has been applied, ask about it on meta.
  2. If you're going to apply a tag, first check if there are multiple tags that cover the same meaning and scope (in their tag wiki excerpts and/or in how they are applied). If so, apply the better one (the one that's been used most consistently so far). Then propose a tag synonym (or if you don't have enough reputation to propose a tag synonym, propose it on meta).
  3. Don't add tags that are tangential to the fundamental question at hand. For example,

    • If there is a question about teaching, and the OP mentions that the class is a physics class, but the question and answers would be exactly the same if the OP was teaching engineering, don't add .
    • If there is a question about applying to a PhD program, and the OP asks "I saw on the program's website that applicants are encouraged to contact potential supervisors directly - what to write on first contact?" - this is not a question about a .
  4. Re-tag only if you are adding meaningful information by doing so. For example, almost all of the questions on this site could potentially have , , , or . But adding these to a question after the fact - even if it's not really wrong - often adds no useful information. (This is, unfortunately, a somewhat subjective judgment call that not everybody will always agree on.)

Finally, as with everything else on this site, don't be upset if someone disagrees with your tags, changes them, or applies tags you think are wrong. If someone changes or removes a tag you've added, take some time to read the tag wiki excerpts, look at the questions the tag has been applied to, review the above guidelines, and try to understand why. After doing that, if you still don't understand, ask on meta. (I suggest to ask on meta, rather than in a comment or in chat, so that the discussion is preserved permanently and everybody can learn from it.)

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