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Music questions in social Q&A: an analysis of Yahoo! Answers

Morten Hertzum (University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Pia Borlund (University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 4 October 2017

Issue publication date: 12 October 2017



Social question and answer (social Q&A) sites have become a popular tool for obtaining music information. The purpose of this paper is to investigate what users ask about, what experience the questions convey, and how users specify their questions.


A total of 3,897 music questions from the social Q&A site Yahoo! Answers were categorized according to their question type, user experience, and question specification.


The music questions were diverse with (dis)approval (42 percent), factual (21 percent), and advice (15 percent) questions as the most frequent types. Advice questions were the longest and roughly twice as long as (dis)approval and factual questions. The user experience associated with the questions was most often pragmatic (24 percent) or senso-emotional (12 percent). Pragmatic questions were typically about the user’s own performance of music, while senso-emotional questions were about finding music for listening. Notably, half of the questions did not convey information about the user experience but the absence of such information did not reduce the number of answers. In specifying the questions, the most frequent information was about the music context and the user context.

Research limitations/implications

This study suggests a division of labor between social Q&A sites and search engines for music information retrieval. It should be noted that the study is restricted to one social Q&A site.


Social Q&A sites provide an opportunity for studying what information real users seek about music and what information they specify to retrieve it, thereby elucidating the role of social Q&A in music information seeking.



This study was conducted in the context of the CoSound project, which was co-funded by Innovation Fund Denmark (Grant No. 0603-00475B). The funding source had no role in how the study was designed, conducted, reported, or published. Stavris Solo downloaded the music questions from Yahoo! Answers.


Hertzum, M. and Borlund, P. (2017), "Music questions in social Q&A: an analysis of Yahoo! Answers", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 73 No. 5, pp. 992-1009.



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