Practical Guide To Grid Search [How To In Python For SVM & Logistic Regression]

by | Aug 17, 2023 | Data Science, Machine Learning

What is grid search?

Grid search is a hyperparameter tuning technique commonly used in machine learning to find a given model’s best combination of hyperparameters. Hyperparameters are parameters not learned during training but are set before training and significantly impact the model’s performance and behaviour.

In a grid search, you create a “grid” of possible values for each hyperparameter you want to tune. For example, if you’re training a support vector machine (SVM), you might have two hyperparameters: C (regularization parameter) and kernel (type of kernel function). You would define a grid of possible values for both C and kernel and then systematically train and evaluate the model for each combination of these values.

How does grid search work?

  1. Define the hyperparameters and their possible values: Decide which hyperparameters you want to tune and specify a range or a list of values for each.
  2. Create a grid: Generate all possible combinations of hyperparameter values. This forms a grid where each point corresponds to a unique combination.
  3. Train and evaluate models: For each combination of hyperparameters in the grid, train a model using the training data and evaluate its performance using a validation dataset or a cross-validation technique.
  4. Select the best combination: Determine which combination of hyperparameters results in the best performance on the validation data. This performance metric could be accuracy, F1-score, mean squared error, etc., depending on the nature of your problem.
  5. Test the chosen model: Once you’ve identified the best combination, use the test dataset to evaluate the model’s performance one final time. This gives you an estimate of how well your model might perform on new, unseen data.

Grid search is a straightforward method, but it can become computationally expensive, especially if you have many hyperparameters and a wide range of possible values for each. To mitigate this, researchers often use techniques like random search, where you randomly sample from the hyperparameter space, or more advanced optimization methods like Bayesian optimization.

In a grid search, you create a "grid" of possible values for each hyperparameter you want to tune.

In a grid search, you create a “grid” of possible values for each hyperparameter you want to tune.

Overall, grid search is a valuable tool for finding good hyperparameter combinations. Still, as machine learning becomes more complex, other techniques are often employed to improve the efficiency of the search process.

Grid search example in Python

Grid search with SVM in sklearn

Let’s walk through a simple grid search example using the scikit-learn library in Python. In this example, we’ll use the famous Iris dataset and perform a grid search to find the best parameters for a Support Vector Machine (SVM) classifier.

from sklearn.datasets import load_iris
from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split, GridSearchCV
from sklearn.svm import SVC

# Load the Iris dataset
iris = load_iris()
X =
y =

# Split the data into training and testing sets
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y, test_size=0.2, random_state=42)

# Define the parameter grid for the grid search
param_grid = {
    'C': [0.1, 1, 10],                # Values of the regularization parameter
    'kernel': ['linear', 'rbf'],      # Types of kernel functions
    'gamma': ['scale', 'auto']        # Kernel coefficient for 'rbf' kernel

# Create the SVM classifier
svm = SVC()

# Create the GridSearchCV object
grid_search = GridSearchCV(svm, param_grid, cv=5, scoring='accuracy')

# Perform the grid search on the training data, y_train)

# Print the best parameters and the corresponding accuracy
print("Best Parameters:", grid_search.best_params_)
print("Best Accuracy:", grid_search.best_score_)

# Evaluate the best model on the test data
best_model = grid_search.best_estimator_
test_accuracy = best_model.score(X_test, y_test)
print("Test Accuracy of Best Model:", test_accuracy)

In this example, we first load the Iris dataset and split it into training and testing sets. We then define a parameter grid with different values of the regularization parameter ‘C’, types of kernel functions ‘kernel’, and options for the ‘gamma’ parameter for the ‘rbf’ kernel. We create an SVM classifier and use GridSearchCV to perform a 5-fold cross-validation grid search over the parameter combinations.

After completing the grid search, we print the best parameters and the corresponding accuracy obtained during cross-validation. Finally, we evaluate the performance of the best model on the test data.

This is a basic example; you might encounter more complex hyperparameter tuning scenarios and larger datasets where grid search might become computationally intensive.

Grid search with logistic regression in sklearn

Here is a grid search example to tune hyperparameters for a Logistic Regression model:

from sklearn.datasets import load_iris
from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split, GridSearchCV
from sklearn.linear_model import LogisticRegression

# Load the Iris dataset
iris = load_iris()
X =
y =

# Split the data into training and testing sets
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y, test_size=0.2, random_state=42)

# Define the parameter grid for grid search
param_grid = {
    'C': [0.01, 0.1, 1, 10, 100],        # Inverse of regularization strength
    'penalty': ['l1', 'l2'],             # Regularization penalty ('l1' or 'l2')
    'solver': ['liblinear', 'saga']      # Solvers for optimization ('liblinear' for 'l1', 'saga' for both)

# Create the Logistic Regression model
logreg = LogisticRegression(max_iter=1000)

# Create the GridSearchCV object
grid_search = GridSearchCV(logreg, param_grid, cv=5, scoring='accuracy')

# Perform grid search on the training data, y_train)

# Print the best parameters and the corresponding accuracy
print("Best Parameters:", grid_search.best_params_)
print("Best Accuracy:", grid_search.best_score_)

# Evaluate the best model on the test data
best_model = grid_search.best_estimator_
test_accuracy = best_model.score(X_test, y_test)
print("Test Accuracy of Best Model:", test_accuracy)

In this example, we’re also using the Iris dataset as before and applying grid search to tune hyperparameters for a Logistic Regression classifier. We’re tuning parameters like ‘C’ (inverse of regularization strength), ‘penalty’ (regularization penalty), and ‘solver’ (optimization algorithm).

After performing the grid search, the best hyperparameters and the corresponding accuracy of the validation data are printed. The best model is then evaluated on the test data to estimate its performance on unseen data.

Remember that this is a basic example, and in practice, you might encounter more complex hyperparameter tuning scenarios and larger datasets. Grid search can be a powerful tool to fine-tune Logistic Regression and other machine learning algorithms to achieve better performance on your specific tasks.

Tips and best practices for grid search

As you embark on your hyperparameter tuning journey using grid search, several tips and best practices can help you navigate the process efficiently and effectively. While grid search is a powerful technique, these guidelines will ensure you extract the most value from your efforts and make informed decisions.

1. Prioritize Relevant Hyperparameters:

  • Not all hyperparameters are equally influential. Focus on those that have the most significant impact on your model’s performance.
  • Domain knowledge can guide you in selecting the most relevant hyperparameters for your problem.

2. Start with a Coarse Grid:

  • To understand their effects, begin with a broad range of values for each hyperparameter.
  • A coarse grid helps you quickly identify general trends and narrow the search space.

3. Utilize Domain Knowledge:

  • Leverage your understanding of the problem domain to make informed decisions about which hyperparameters are likely to work best.
  • Specific hyperparameters might have intuitive implications in different contexts.

4. Use Cross-Validation:

  • Employ cross-validation techniques to evaluate models on different subsets of your data, reducing the risk of overfitting.
  • This provides a more robust estimation of a model’s performance.

5. Consider Randomized Search:

  • Consider using a randomized search instead of an exhaustive grid search for large search spaces.
  • Randomized search samples a defined number of configurations, saving computational resources while exploring a diverse set of hyperparameter combinations.

6. Avoid Data Leakage:

  • Be cautious when using information from the validation set during hyperparameter tuning, as this could lead to data leakage and overfitting.

7. Use Proper Evaluation Metrics:

  • Select evaluation metrics that align with your problem’s goals. Accuracy, precision, recall, F1-score, and others may be appropriate depending on the issue.

8. Keep an Eye on Performance Metrics:

  • Monitor both training and validation metrics as you experiment with hyperparameters.
  • Ensure that performance improvements generalize well to new, unseen data.

9. Visualize Results:

  • Visualize the results of your grid search to identify patterns and relationships between hyperparameters and performance.

10. Keep Track of Experiments:

  • Maintain a record of the hyperparameter combinations you’ve tried and their corresponding results.
  • This record helps you avoid revisiting already explored regions of the hyperparameter space.

11. Understand the Resource Trade-off:

  • Be mindful of the computational resources available for grid search, especially when dealing with a large search space.

12. Test on Unseen Data:

  • Once you’ve selected the best hyperparameters using validation data, evaluate your final model on a separate test set to gauge its performance on entirely new observations.

Hyperparameter tuning is both an art and a science. It requires a balance of systematic exploration and informed decision-making. By following these tips and best practices, you’ll be well-equipped to effectively wield the power of grid search, elevating your machine learning models to new heights of performance and generalization.

How to avoid pitfalls in hyperparameter tuning in machine learning?

Hyperparameter tuning is a critical aspect of building robust machine learning models. While techniques like grid search can significantly improve model performance, there are pitfalls and challenges that you should be aware of to ensure your tuning efforts lead to meaningful results. Let’s explore some common pitfalls and strategies to avoid them:

1. Overfitting the Validation Set:

  • Pitfall: Continuously fine-tuning hyperparameters based on validation set performance can lead to overfitting the validation data.
  • Solution: Use a separate holdout set or cross-validation for hyperparameter tuning to prevent overfitting. Reserve the final validation set for model assessment after hyperparameter tuning.

2. Ignoring Domain Knowledge:

  • Pitfall: Blindly exploring hyperparameters without considering domain knowledge can lead to inefficient searches and suboptimal models.
  • Solution: Leverage your understanding of the problem domain to guide hyperparameter choices. Prioritize hyperparameters known to have significant impacts.

3. Ignoring Interaction Effects:

  • Pitfall: Hyperparameters can interact with each other, meaning their impact might change based on the values of other hyperparameters.
  • Solution: Consider hyperparameter interactions and test combinations that make sense together rather than treating them in isolation.

4. Exhaustive Search in Large Spaces:

  • Pitfall: In high-dimensional hyperparameter spaces, exhaustive grid search can become computationally prohibitive.
  • Solution: Consider techniques like randomized search or Bayesian optimization for large search spaces to explore hyperparameters efficiently.

5. Cherry-Picking Results:

  • Pitfall: Selecting the best-performing hyperparameter combination based on a single experiment can be misleading, especially with noisy results.
  • Solution: Rely on statistical significance tests or repeated cross-validation to ensure your findings are robust and not due to chance.

6. Ignoring Over-Optimization:

  • Pitfall: Continuously tuning hyperparameters can lead to over-optimization, where the model fits the noise in the data.
  • Solution: Regularize the search process by limiting the number of trials or implementing early stopping criteria.

7. Ignoring Model Complexity:

  • Pitfall: Hyperparameter tuning can inadvertently increase model complexity, potentially leading to overfitting.
  • Solution: Monitor model complexity alongside performance metrics. Avoid hyperparameters that lead to overly complex models.

8. Not Validating on a Test Set:

  • Pitfall: Validating your final chosen model on the same data used for hyperparameter tuning can lead to optimistic performance estimates.
  • Solution: Use a separate test set not used during hyperparameter tuning for unbiased model evaluation.

9. Ignoring Regularization:

  • Pitfall: Neglecting to apply proper regularization techniques can lead to unstable and overly sensitive models.
  • Solution: Implement appropriate regularization methods (e.g., L1, L2 regularization) to prevent overfitting and improve model stability.

10. Not Documenting Experiments:

  • Pitfall: Please document hyperparameter experiments to avoid confusion and difficulty reproducing results.
  • Solution: Maintain a comprehensive record of experiments, including hyperparameter values, results, and any insights gained.

By being aware of these pitfalls and adopting strategies to mitigate them, you can navigate the hyperparameter tuning process more effectively. Careful consideration and informed decision-making will lead to models that generalize well and demonstrate consistent performance across various datasets.

What other hyperparameter tuning techniques can be used?

Besides grid search, several other hyperparameter tuning techniques can be used to optimize machine learning models. These techniques offer varying levels of efficiency and effectiveness in navigating the hyperparameter space. Some popular alternatives include:

1. Randomized Search:

  • Randomized search is similar to grid search, but instead of exhaustively evaluating all combinations, it randomly samples a defined number of configurations from the hyperparameter space.
  • This approach is advantageous when the search space is large, as it allows for more efficient exploration.

2. Bayesian Optimization:

  • Based on previous evaluations, bayesian optimization employs probabilistic models to predict the performance of different hyperparameters.
  • It balances the exploration-exploitation trade-off, focusing on promising regions of the hyperparameter space.
  • Bayesian optimization is more sophisticated and efficient compared to grid search or random search for complex optimization problems.

3. Genetic Algorithms:

  • Genetic algorithms use principles inspired by natural evolution to evolve a population of potential solutions (hyperparameter configurations) over multiple generations.
  • Hyperparameters are treated as genes, and the algorithm iteratively selects, mutates, and combines configurations to improve performance.

4. Gradient-Based Optimization:

  • Gradient-based optimization, often used in neural networks, involves adjusting hyperparameters using gradient descent techniques.
  • For example, learning rates and weight decay parameters can be optimized using gradient-based methods.

5. Automated Machine Learning (AutoML) Tools:

  • AutoML platforms like Auto-sklearn,, and Google AutoML automate the hyperparameter tuning process, feature selection, model selection, and data preprocessing.
  • These tools leverage sophisticated algorithms to find optimal hyperparameters efficiently.

6. Local Search Algorithms:

  • Local search algorithms iteratively explore the hyperparameter space by making small perturbations to the current configuration.
  • Examples include simulated annealing, hill climbing, and particle swarm optimization.

7. Cross-Validation Techniques:

  • K-Fold Cross-Validation can be used to assess the performance of different hyperparameter settings more reliably.
  • By averaging performance across multiple validation sets, you better estimate a configuration’s generalization ability.

8. Ensemble Methods:

  • Ensemble methods combine multiple models to improve predictive performance.
  • Individual models’ hyperparameters and the ensemble can be tuned to optimize overall performance.

Each of these techniques has advantages and limitations, and the choice depends on factors like the complexity of the problem, available computational resources, and the specific algorithm being tuned. Combining techniques might strike the right balance between exploration and exploitation, ultimately leading to well-optimized machine learning models.


Hyperparameter tuning is the art of sculpting the raw materials of machine learning algorithms into finely tuned instruments that produce harmonious predictions. In model development, where performance is paramount, finding the perfect configuration can be as challenging as rewarding. In this journey, grid search emerges as a steadfast guide, leading us through the labyrinth of possibilities towards optimal model performance.

In this exploration, we’ve dissected the essence of hyperparameters, unmasked the significance of tuning, and delved deep into the mechanics of grid search. We’ve uncovered the systematic process of selecting, defining, and evaluating hyperparameters using a structured grid-like framework. Through tips, best practices, and cautionary tales, we’ve armed you with the wisdom to avoid common pitfalls and navigate the terrain with clarity.

As you embark on your tuning journey, may this newfound knowledge serve as your guide, illuminating the path towards optimal model performance.

About the Author

Neri Van Otten

Neri Van Otten

Neri Van Otten is the founder of Spot Intelligence, a machine learning engineer with over 12 years of experience specialising in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and deep learning innovation. Dedicated to making your projects succeed.

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