This project, beginning in July 2016 and now concluded, looked to further our understanding of the social and emotional reasons and motivations that lead users to ask and answer questions and otherwise participate, interact, and share information on social questioning-and-answering sites. It employed content analysis, a survey, and semi-structured interviews to explore users’ socio-emotional motivations and the influence of these motivations on the potential coherence of communities around their questioning, answering, and interactions in the Academia section of StackExchange, a social Q&A site for academics and higher education students. Analysis drew from the literature on socio-emotional motivations, Burnett and Jaeger’s theory of information worlds, and the concept of coherence from Star’s boundary object theory. I am grateful for funding from a Support for the Advancement of Scholarship (SAS) Grant provided by the University of Alberta Faculty of Education. I worked with two graduate research assistants (RAs) on this project, Rachel Osolen and Alicia Cappello.

The study was approved by the University of Alberta's Research Ethics Board. We analyzed content from 100 questions and their associated answers and comments, partial findings from which were presented at an international research conference on social media; we have also conducted our survey of Academia Stack Exchange users and interviewed a number of them about their experiences, with partial analysis of this presented at a national information science conference (see below). Further findings and analysis were also published as part of an article in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).

Publications and Presentations

The following are permanent links to the consent forms that participants agreed to when participating in the research: