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I expected this would return answers that contain my search term. However, it is returning answers from questions that contain the search term. Here's an example.

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interesting. Compare to… which does what you want but is less intuitive – Kate Gregory May 6 '11 at 15:00
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Maybe you want is:answer body:thanks.

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From my interpretation, what it does is that it only returns answers that satisfy the other search criteria you specify. thanks alone, for example, will search for questions that have "thanks" in either the question or its answers, and so you'll just get the answers to it. In that respect, it's not the most intuitive result when compared with how it works with other search terms (like user: or votes:, which search on a post-level).

Unless this gets changed, what you're probably looking for can be found using a search for is:answer body:thanks

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