Received...; accepted... Context. The availability of large spectroscopic datasets has opened up the possibility of constructing large samples of rare objects in a systematic manner. Aims. The goal of this study is to analyse the properties of galaxies showing Wolf-Rayet features in their optical spectrum using spectra from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Release 6. With this unprecedentedly large sample we aim to constrain the properties of the Wolf-Rayet phase and its impact on the surrounding interstellar medium. Methods. We carried out very careful continuum subtraction on all galaxies with equivalent widths of Hβ>2Å in emission and identify Wolf-Rayet features using a mixture of automatic and visual classification. We combined this with spectroscopic and photometric information from the SDSS and derive metal abundances using a number of methods. Results. We find a total of 570 galaxies with significant Wolf-Rayet (WR) features and a further 1115 potential candidates, several times more than even the largest heterogeneously assembled catalogues. We discuss in detail the properties of galaxies showing Wolf-Rayet features with a focus on their empirical properties. We are able to accurately quantify the incidence of Wolf-Rayet galaxies with redshift and show that the likelihood of otherwise similar galaxies showing Wolf-Rayet features increases with increasing metallicity, but that WR features are found in galaxies of a wide range in morphology. The large sample allows us to show explicitly that there ar
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