Quality in Product Reviews: What Technical Communicators Should Know
Purpose: Measuring the quality of product reviews via helpfulness votes is problematic for several reasons. I delineate the components of product review quality in order to assist technical communicators who manage their organizations' user-generated content in identifying quality content and in helping reviewers produce quality content.
Method/Corpus: I analyze results from secondary research on product reviews and discuss six important components of review quality. I focus most attention on five components of review quality that technical communicators can assess—informativeness, valance, credibility, conformity, and readability—and briefly describe a sixth component—user characteristics. I also exemplify these components, drawing from a corpus of 8,973 product reviews gathered in 2013 from a variety of retail and review websites.
Results: Based on this analysis, I recommend strategies that technical communicators can use (1) to identify these components of review quality, (2) to develop a rich data set from which they can glean consumer wants and needs as well as trends related to their organizations' products, and (3) to help reviewers write better reviews.
Conclusions: As the amount of user-generated content grows, the need to learn from it and the need to improve it grow. By using their knowledge and skills in new ways, technical communicators who manage and develop product reviews can stay relevant and necessary as organizations rely more and more heavily on user-generated content.
This article is published as “Quality in Product Reviews: What Technical Communicators Should Know.” Technical Communication 62 (2015):3–18. Posted with permission.