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ABSTRACT: Strategies for justifying counter-arguments in Q&A discussion

Abstract: This study examines the strategies employed in justifying counter-arguments against answers provided in Q&A (question and answer) discussion. The study also explores how information sources are used in support of such arguments. The findings draw on the analysis of 100 discourse episodes focusing on global warming – a controversial topic eliciting competing answers from the participants. The empirical data were downloaded from Yahoo! Answers. Four strategies were identified. Of them, questioning the validity of answers and questioning the background assumptions of answers were used most frequently. While justifying counter-arguments, the participants also drew on emotional appeals and questioned the contributor’s motives. To support the counter-arguments, the participants mainly drew on internet-based sources of information. The controversial nature of the discussion topic was reflected in the debate about the most authoritative information sources: persuasive material advocating a particular viewpoint to global warming vs objective research reports.

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Brian S McGowan, PhD

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Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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