When I search for similar questions that I am going to ask, I usually can't find anything through the search box on Stack Overflow.

But when I enter my question on the "Ask Question" page, the questions suggested through the "Questions with similar titles" box are usually relevant. Do you experience the same thing?

  • 32
    +1 because I typed into the Ask Question page to find this question – Kevin Laity Nov 27 '09 at 21:13
  • I've noticed when I ask a question in most communities, the "suggestions" offered almost never include a duplicate, and often include many things not even remotely related. But as soon as I post the question, more than one duplicate appears in the "related" sidebar. Maybe duplicates would be reduced if the suggestions were to use the same algorithm as "related." – WGroleau Aug 28 '16 at 18:49

I used to think the same thing (and even thought of posting this very question at some point), but after thinking about it for a while, I came to the conclusion that something different probably was the reason:

  • When I use the search box, I type in some keywords, some things that might have to do with what I'm looking for.

  • When I use the question title box, I actually type in a question, so I really think about how to phrase this thing as a question.

I believe that this is actually the reason for the (perceived) better results: You phrase your search differently.

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  • 3
    This seems wrong. See e.g. this search. And after you get zero results try typing the same phrase into Ask box on Math.SE. – Ruslan Dec 18 '16 at 14:58
  • 1
    This is not the reason. The exact same search returns different results. – Paul Wintz Jan 30 '19 at 17:09
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    Not true for me. I regularly cut and paste same string between the two and the Ask a Question is much much better. – BeNice Feb 21 at 17:15

Bear in mind that Ask searches on title ONLY. Nothing else is looked at: body, tags, nothing. It's a pure title match.

Edit: there is now an advanced search operator, "title:1" which you can see here


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  • 2
    What about an intitle:1 option we could set to limit the keywords to titles only? – Joel Coehoorn Oct 24 '09 at 21:54
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    If Ask is limited to title only, while Search Q&A is not, then why does the latter sometimes return zero results while the former almost always gives something? See e.g. this search phrase on Math.SE. – Ruslan Dec 18 '16 at 15:04

The search box has many more features than the Ask Question title box. You can see the options here.. Also the search box strips away common words and keeps keywords. But outside of that they should be searching the same things.

Make sure when you're searching in the search box to use it like the ask question box. But remember that it is stripping away non keywords. You can even see what words it's stripping out.

Here I'm asking the question "When are the dev days happening?

When you click that and then click any tab (like relevance or newest). Then check out what the search query is consisted of. In this case it's changed to "dev days happening"

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  • first link just leads to a blank search page... – Rax Adaam Apr 19 '17 at 15:53
  • This answer is no longer true – Luuklag Oct 25 at 17:57
  • @Luuklag Can you elaborate on that? – Mast Oct 25 at 18:52
  • @Mast: But remember that it is stripping away non keywords. You can even see what words it's stripping out. This currently isnt the case when you search imho. – Luuklag Oct 25 at 19:26

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