User motivations for asking questions in online Q&A services

Erik Choi, Chirag Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Online Q&A services are information sources where people identify their information need, formulate the need in natural language, and interact with one another to satisfy their needs. Even though in recent years online Q&A has considerably grown in popularity and impacted information-seeking behaviors, we still lack knowledge about what motivates people to ask a question in online Q&A environments. Yahoo! Answers and WikiAnswers were selected as the test beds in the study, and a sequential mixed method employing an Internet-based survey, a diary method, and interviews was used to investigate user motivations for asking a question in online Q&A services. Cognitive needs were found as the most significant motivation, driving people to ask a question. Yet, it was found that other motivational factors (e.g., tension free needs) also played an important role in user motivations for asking a question, depending on asker's contexts and situations. Understanding motivations for asking a question could provide a general framework of conceptualizing different contexts and situations of information needs in online Q&A. The findings have several implications not only for developing better question-answering processes in online Q&A environments, but also for gaining insights into the broader understanding of online information-seeking behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1182-1197
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems and Management
  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Computer Networks and Communications


  • information seeking
  • user behavior


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