Scientific knowledge communication in online Q&A communities: Linguistic devices as a tool to increase the popularity and perceived professionalism of knowledge contributions

Yicheng Zhang, Tian Lu, Chee Wei David Phang, Chenghong Zhang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

With the popularity of question-and-answer (Q and A) communities, widespread dissemination of scientific knowledge has become more viable than ever before. However, those contributing high-quality professional scientific knowledge are confronted with the challenge of making their contributions popular, since nonexpert readers may not recognize the importance of their contributions given the massive amount of information available online. In this study, we show that nonexpert readers are capable of evaluating the professionalism of content contributed in such communities as well as experts. However, we discovered that a salient discrepancy exists between the content nonexperts favor and the content they perceive as professional. In line with studies that have suggested that writing techniques play an important role in how expert content is received by laypersons, we investigated how the use of linguistic devices affects both the perceived professionalism and the popularity of contributions in Q and A communities. Based on both secondary data and a scenario-based survey, we identified specific linguistic devices that can increase content popularity without reducing perceived professionalism. Additionally, we revealed linguistic devices that increase popularity at the expense of perceived professionalism in this context. Finally, we conducted a laboratory experiment to more firmly establish the causal effects of the linguistic device use. The triangulated findings have important implications for both research and practice on communicating scientific knowledge in Q&A communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1129-1173
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Volume20
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Linguistic device
  • Popularity
  • Professionalism
  • Q&A communities
  • Science popularization
  • Scientific knowledge communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications

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