"How much change do you get from 40$?" - Analyzing and addressing failed questions on social Q&A

Chirag Shah, Marie L. Radford, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Erik Choi, Vanessa Kitzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Online question-answering (Q&A) services are becoming increasingly popular among information seekers. While online Q&A services encompass both virtual reference service (VRS) and social Q&A (SQA), SQA services, such as Yahoo! Answers and WikiAnswers, have experienced more success in reaching out to the masses and leveraging subsequent participation. However, the large volume of content on some of the more popular SQA sites renders participants unable to answer some posted questions adequately or even at all. To reduce this latter category of questions that do not receive an answer, the current paper explores reasons for why fact-based questions fail on a specific Q&A service. For this exploration and analyses, thousands of failed questions were collected from Yahoo! Answers extracting only those that were fact-based, information-seeking questions, while opinion/adviceseeking questions were discarded. A typology was then created to code reasons of failures for these questions using a grounded theory approach. Using this typology, suggestions are proposed for how the questions could berestructured or redirected to another Q&A service (possibly a VRS), so users would have a better chance of receiving an answer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of the ASIST Annual Meeting
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences


  • Online Q&A
  • Questions analysis
  • Social Q&A
  • Virtual reference services


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