There have been some recent discussions that it's getting increasingly difficult to find duplicates or near-duplicates of questions posted by new users, on the main site. Similar concepts are getting repeated time and again in answers, leading to duplicated efforts. So what are some tips to quickly search for duplicates on Physics SE?

Some of our primary search resources are of course

But how exactly do you use them to search efficiently? Are there any additional scripts we can use? For example, one of the scripts that I personally use is Searchbar and Nav Improvements by Samuel Liew.


Math SE: How do you search for specific questions?

Math SE: How to search on this site?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Does memorizing every question count as a tip? $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 22:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos It sure is a "tip", but I don't think it's a helpful one for newer users. ;) $\endgroup$
    – user199113
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Blue true, that just comes with time. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos - I think that I can state with conviction that there is no way in heck that my brain is capable of memorizing every question on Physics SE. Kudos to you! But, generally, Google does a pretty good job of it. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 23:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JonCuster you need to work on your sense of humor ;) $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 0:00
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos - (My tongue was firmly in cheek). I suspect there are a few folks I know who actually would have a pretty good chance at actually doing so. Based on the evidence, our own Qmechanic would seem to have it pretty much nailed... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 0:07
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ The 'related' right bar has a lot of things most lazy OPs never bothered to check. $\endgroup$
    – user191954
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/10421 related. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @BenCrowell Correct. And yes, maintaining such a file sounds like a good idea. Maybe you could write about it in an answer and perhaps share the format with us? $\endgroup$
    – user199113
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


I maintain a FAQ file organized in outline format, on the specific topics that I'm interested in and knowledgeable about. Many of the entries in this file are just links to physics.SE questions. The FAQ is at a publicly accessible URL, so anyone who's interested in seeing how I have it organized can look at it. When someone posts a question on physics.SE that I think is probably a FAQ or duplicate, I look at my FAQ file, and often it has an entry for a physics.SE question.

(This FAQ is in some homebrewed personal wiki software that I wrote, along with my notes on a bunch of other stuff. I have the stuff that's personal or private password protected. This FAQ page is intentionally not password protected. However, I don't really make an effort to maintain it in a condition where I would be proud of it as a professional work for others to use. Some entries may be out of date or may not represent my best current understanding of the topic.)

  • $\begingroup$ That's definitely a better tool than trying to remember if I've seen the question before. That's pretty cool, thanks for sharing. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ quite impressive! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 5:30

This is one feature of SE which I can't praise enough: tag searches. It's mentioned in the site-specific search link from the question, but it's certainly worth emphasizing. I'm trying a barebones tutorial of the most basic feature of SE search.

Thanks to one particular user (and many others, of course), Physics SE appears to have a very well-tagged selection of questions. And these are extremely helpful for people searching for duplicates because tag searches are blind to language barriers: everyone will phrase the same question differently, but the topics covered are necessarily the same, which means some of the core tags will be identical.

Tag searches are super easy! There're just a couple of basic commands:

  • In the search field, type the name of the tag, including the hyphens for spaces, in square brackets. Like [quantum-mechanics].
  • One tag probably won't get very far, but you can add several more, and a search like [quantum-mechanics][complex-numbers] gets you an excellent set of results which covers almost everything in the topic.

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