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Prior to asking my question, I tried exercising my basic research skills to see if my question had already been asked and answered before using my favourite search engine (Ex. Google search) and using the site's search bar. Unfortunately, I didn't find what I was looking for. Perhaps I was just using the wrong keywords, or other technical limitations of the search engine were taking effect, or perhaps (amazingly!) my question really has not been asked before.

In any case, I wrote up my question post to the very excellent Stack Exchange community, and to show that I made some prior effort, I stated in the post that "I tried searching for an answer, but couldn't find one".

I hoped that it would prevent others from downvoting my post, but I do wonder... how much value does it really contribute to the post to say that? And is there anything more valuable that I can say instead- something that be more beneficial for the rest of the internet now and in the future?

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Just saying "I tried searching and didn't find an answer" (or something to similar effect) doesn't contribute anything of real substance to your question (given the goals of the Stack Exchange network). We're building a knowledge-base, and such statements don't do anything to make your question more understandable or searchable. I'm doubtful of how much impact such a statement could have in staving off downvotes for lack of research (after all, you'd be asking the audience to take your word for it, with zero evidence). Most things that don't contribute to the understandability of posts are considered noise (see What should I keep out of my posts and titles?).

Here's something more constructive you can do to improve the searchability of your question post for future readers with a similar question:

  • If your question post doesn't already contain the keywords that you entered into your search queries (which is probably unlikely), then try to mix those keywords into the flow of the question post in a way that reads naturally.

  • If there are alternate keywords that aren't necessarily the most technically correct in the area of subject matter your question concerns, but that you tried using anyway in your search queries because you thought of them as being something a reasonable person would try searching for (yourself included), then consider trying to also intersperse such words into your question post in a way that reads organically. If you don't see such a way to do that, then you can add a section to the end of your post of "other search queries I tried making".

Related on those two above points but concerning questions that have already been asked by someone else, see Is it encouraged to intentionally post duplicates for searchability? (where the top answer is essentially "No. Prefer editing the canonical question to improve its searchability").

Also related but concerning short questions where the asker feels little need to put anything in the body other than what's already stated in their title: Grace Note's answer to Should "Title Says It All" questions be edited or closed?. TL;DR rephrasing the title question in the body with alternate keywords can improve the searchability of the question post.

Additionally, if in your searching you came across questions on the same site that sounded like they were related, but ended up being a different question / about a different problem than yours, you can link to those questions in your question post and explain how they are different than yours, which can prevent incorrect duplicate-closure votes / flags.

Once you've done those things (or perhaps you already have!) and have done your best to make your question post understandable, you can feel free to take out your "I tried searching" statement (or you can leave it. It's up to you. But don't feel surprised if someone later edits it out- especially once answers start rolling in- especially by long-time users who have a good memory of canonical questions for duplicate questions. If they answer your question, you can be pretty confident it hasn't been asked before).

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If you're talking about Stack Overflow, simply searching is not generally considered enough of an effort before posting a question. If you can't find a pre-existing solution, you're usually expected to try to code it yourself -- coding is not just cut-and-paste, you should be able to create things from scratch using basic principles.

So when your searches fail, you should try to write the code, and then if you can't get it working you post your attempt. Then we can explain what you did wrong and how to fix it.

Questions that say "I tried searching but couldn't find anything" and then expect us to post the solution are the kind that get lots of downvotes and "what have you tried?" questions.

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    Caveat: From what I've read, on Stack Overflow, for reasonably scoped questions such as "how to" questions that aren't about debugging wrong code, that's not a hard rule- just something that some users prefer to see. See Shog9's answer to Do we need a close reason for zero-effort questions?. (and no, I'm not just talking about Stack Overflow. If I was, I'd have posted this on MSO)
    – starball
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 22:26

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