AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

The Use of Information Sources by the Internet Users in Answering Questions

Sanghee Oh, Jung Sun Oh and Chirag Shah

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


The purpose of this study was to investigate what kind of sources people prefer to use when they answer questions online, especially, in the context of social Q&A. Social Q&A is a Web-based service, which allows people to ask questions and receive answers from their fellow users. In social Q&A, people often cite sources of information when they answer questions. It could be a name, a short description, or a hyperlink to the original sources. Yahoo! Answers was chosen for this study due to its popularity as a top ranked social Q&A service as well as the capability of separately indicating sources for the answers in its format. We collected data with a crawler that used Yahoo! Answers APIs. A total number of 5,391 sources were identified and analyzed with the following two approaches: (1) source distribution by online accessibility, and (2) source distribution by genre. At the early stage of this study, it was expected that the results of source preferences heavily relied on sources online, since people ask and answer questions on the Web-based service. Nevertheless, it was found that human (56.4%) was the most frequently cited source, and it was followed by online (40%) and offline sources (4%). According to the source distribution by genre, human (56.4%) was followed by the Internet (38.1%), books (3.6%), and mass media (1.6%). For the in-depth analysis, the sub-levels of each category were examined, and the source distribution was compared across the subject areas.

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