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There has been several questions recently about tags, and topic related tags in particular. I was wondering: how do you use tags? Why do we care about them?

Personally, I don't use them at all, I only search for questions through the search bar. It would therefore be helpful to see what kind of usages the community has for tags.

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I see the main purpose of tags as two-fold:

  • Allow users who are interested in specific topics to quickly identify/have emailed to them questions on those topics
  • Allow for topic-specific searching

It's not as useful for the first purpose, as all of Academia is basically one large topic, but I've found them very useful for the second purpose.

  • Do you have an example of information you would find by tag search but not by a regular search? Most of the time, the tag name is contained in the question/answer. – user102 May 21 '13 at 16:05
  • Not off the top of my head. I've used it in the past to find questions about papers, and I remember using it to find one about bibliographies. Maybe I'm the only one using it like that :) – eykanal May 21 '13 at 17:41
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I think the usefulness of tags varies across different SE sites. Besides StackOverflow and Academia, I am active in Sports.SE, and occasionally drop by English.SE, Fitness.SE and Arqade.

Based on my experience, tags are very handy in Sports.SE where you can easily filter the questions based on your interest and knowledge of the discipline in question. I have tags that I have identified as favorites, and tags I ignore. Makes things much easier...

Arqade is just as self-explanatory as SO, since pretty much every game has its own tag. One simply needs to search for questions tagged with a game of interest, and BAM! you got everything you asked for...

With Academia.SE I think most of the tags are pretty useless, IMHO, since an overwhelming number of questions can be assigned to one of the following:

  • research
  • admissions
  • phd/masters
  • publishing/publications

There is a whole lot of (at least partially-) redundant tags (e.g. publishing/publications/writing)

Pretty much everytime I ask a question I am bothered to find the "right" tag(s), so I feel a clean-up of the existing tags would be beneficial for the site (at least from my perspective)

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I often find tag searches much more helpful than regular searches. To follow on to a comment made by Charles to Eykanal, I rarely find anything with a tag search that I do not find with a regular search. The key difference is I find a lot less (not so much on our site yet, but definitely the bigger sites). A tag tells me the question is really about the topic. Just because a word is used tells me very little.

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