Distinguishing Online Comments: Study Overview

Which kinds of comments may provoke emotional responses? To understand relations between emotions and online comments I need to make the research object tangible. Therefore I need some categorization. I checked the comment studies from last article according to what criteria the authors use to differentiate types of comments. I created a table offering an overview on comment studies, their research questions and variables. Unfortunately it’s quite overwhelming, which is why I additionally uploaded this PDF-version. Scroll down for a summarizing overview.

Table: Online Comments as Research Object

Study Research Question Dependent Variable Independent Variable
Anderson, Brossard, Scheufele, Xenos, and Ladwig (2013) How does online incivility affect opinions and risk perception of lurkers? Risk perception


Invicivility of online comments (uncivil condition versus civil condition)

Lurkers characteristics (demographic variables, value predisposition, media use, nanotechnology familiarity, efficacy, attitude)

Blom, Carpenter, Bowe, and Lange (2014) To what degree do posts in newspaper forums originated from frequent contributors? How do civil and informational characteristics are different according the contributers? Frequency of contributing Incivility of online comments (1 – Attacks (expressing negative character attacks toward article opinion writer, news media or other contributors), 2 – Language (profanity, racial slurs, and shouting), 3 – Information value (present of absent))
Esau, Friess, and Eilders (2017) How does platform design affect the level of deliberative quality?


Deliberative quality of online comments: rationality, reciprocity, respect, and constructiveness Different media platforms (news forum, news websites, and Facebook pages on which news stories on two topics are considered)
Friemel and Dötsch (2015) Are online reader comments regarded as indicators for the readership of the respective website or the populace in general? Online Comments: Frequency and plattform

Demographics of readers and writers, participation frequency

Perceived public opinion



Gervais (2014) How do people react on incivil online comments and what does that mean for the deliberative potential of comments? Deliberative Potential depending on reaction


Incivility of online comments in three categories: 1 – namecalling, mockery, and character assassination | 2 – spin and misrepresentative exaggeration | 3 – histrionics
Graf, Erba, and Harn (2016) How do civility and anonymity of online comments determine the perception of a news story? Perception of news stories: Interest, trust Civility (civil/uncivil) and Anonymity (man, woman, anonymous) of online comments
Hsueh, Yogeeswaran, and Malinen (2015) Do online comments posted by other users impact an individual’s own expressions of prejudice? Can social influence impact one’s own comments as well as their conscious and unconscious prejudicial attitudes? Expression of prejudice Social norms (anti-prejudice, prejudice) of online comments
Kramer et al. (2017)


How do comments influence emotional reactions on YouTube Videos? Emotional reaction Valence of comments (positive/negative), origin of commenter, nationality, identification with commenter
Ksiazek (2017) What factors influence the degree and quality of user comments on news websites?


Degree and quality (civility/ hostility) of online comments


1 – story content (topic; including outside sources) | 2 – story format (multimedia features) | 3 – journalist participation in commenting platforms | 4 – organizational commenting policies
Lee and Yoon Jae Jang (2010) Do other readers’ reactions to news on Internet portal sites affect individuals’ perceptions of public opinion, assessments of media influence, and their personal opinion? 1 – perceptions of public opinion/social reality | 2 – assessments of media influence | 3 – personal opinion Reader reactions (Approval ratings vs. individual posting)
Lee (2015) What impact does reading Internet news articles with comments and repeated arguments reflected in those comments have on a reader’s perception on issues? Perception of issues (agreement, attitude, cognitive response)


Argument types (strong, weak) and repetition levels (none low, medium, high) of online comments


Neumann and Arendt (2016) Does the publication of the pillory of BILD change the amount of hate comments regarding refugees as well as the valence of the comments? Amount and valence (rhetorical style) of online comments


Publication of a specific article of the German newspaper BILD
Prochazka, Weber, and Schweiger (2016) How do civility and reasoning in comments affect perceptions of journalistic quality in known versus unknown news brands? Perceived journalistic quality Civility and reasoning in user comments
Rösner, Winter, and Krämer (2016) How does incivility and hostile influence cognitive, emotional, and behavioral reactions? Readers aggressive reactions in terms of style and quality Incivility of Online Comments (1 – attacks and language (profanity, shouting, imflammatory) | 2 – arguments: no argument, weak, moderate, strong | 3 – stance (pro legalization of marijuana, contra legalization of marijuana, balanced, no stance)
Sikorski and Hänelt (2016) Do specific comments affect a reader’s perception of an individual actor depicted in an online news article? 1 – public opinion climate, perceived responsibility, attitudes towards a scandalized actor | 2 – perceived journalistic quality of online news Valence of online comments (negative/positive/ mixed/no)
Sung and Lee (2015) Do Online Comments Influence the Public’s Attitudes Toward an Organization? Attitude change Argumentation of online comments: Two-sided (with and without refutation of counter-arguments) and one-sided
Waddell and Bailey (2017) How do comments effect evaluation and universal orientation? 1- bandwagon perceptions | 2 – news perception | 3 – universal orientation Type of online comment (positive, negative, no social media comment)
Walther, DeAndrea, Kim, and Anthony (2010) How do Online Comments influence the perceptions of antimarijuana public service announcements on YouTube? Evaluation of Youtube Videos Valence of online comments (positive, negative)
Winter and Krämer (2016) How do user comments and ratings effect the perception of online science articles? Perceive the public opinion on the topic 1 – Position of user reactions: contradicting

2 – Forms of user reactions: argumentative comments, subjective comments, ratings, none

Ziegele and Quiring (2016) Why do some user comments stimulate feedback from other users while others do not?

Goal: Multidimensional micro-framework of discussion value

a) conceptualize the specific characteristics of user comments that influence subsequent user behavior

b) examine both the behavioral consequences of the users’
expectations and motives and the influence of the computer-mediated communication settings
in shaping online discussions about news items

Discussion Value of Online News Items Dimension 1: Message inherent factors

1 – degree to which comments are interconnected with each other (refering to original news item vs. to other comment)
2 – discussion factors (types of provocation, indicators of credibility)
3 – particular conversational rules
quality of a discussion/discussion value

Dimension 2: Motivational, social and design factor

1 – personal involvement | 2 – situational needs or goals | 3  – users’ personal attributes | 4 – design of environment

Dimension 3: CMC Setting

1 – service architecture (registration, standardization, default limit, administration, discourse architecture)

2 – perceived social context (size of group, commitment to the group), refers to perceived anonymity, low – or high binding publicness, individuals


It seems to be obvious that most studies differentiate comments according to their civility or valence. But apart from that, comments can be distinguished by quite a huge number of factors. Below I tried to present the categories a bit more clearly than in the table above. I used the dimensions of Ziegele and Quiring (2016) for discussion value as overriding dimension and included the categories of the other studies. Depending on what question one tries to answer, the overview might be a helpful tool to decide which criteria of online comments are relevant when doing research on comment influence:


Next step

So, what am I doing with this? My research is about the question, how online comments can influence emotional reactions. Thereby, I want to focus on online comments as (social) context for interpersonal communication. That is why in the following, I guess I am going to try to expand this category.



Anderson, A. A., Brossard, D., Scheufele, D. A., Xenos, M. A., & Ladwig, P. (2013). The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. (19), 373–387. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcc4.12009/full

Bergström, A., & Wadbring, I. (2014). Beneficial yet crappy: Journalists and audiences on obstacles and opportunities in reader comments. European Journal of Communication, 30(2), 137–151. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323114559378

Blom, R., Carpenter, S., Bowe, B. J., & Lange, R. (2014). Frequent Contributors Within U.S. Newspaper Comment Forums. American Behavioral Scientist, 58(10), 1314–1328. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764214527094

Brückner, L., & Schweiger, W. (2017). Facebook discussions of journalistic news: Investigating article objectivity, topic, and media brand as influencing factors. Studies in Communication | Media, 6(4), 365–394. https://doi.org/10.5771/2192-4007-2017-4-365

Chen, G. M., & Pain, P. (2016). Normalizing Online Comments. Journalism Practice, 11(7), 876–892. https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2016.1205954

Esau, K., Friess, D., & Eilders, C. (2017). Design Matters! An Empirical Analysis of Online Deliberation on Different News Platforms. Policy & Internet, 9(3), 321–342. https://doi.org/10.1002/poi3.154

Friemel, T. N., & Dötsch, M. (2015). Online Reader Comments as Indicator for Perceived Public Opinion. In M. Emmer, C. Strippel, & Deutsche Gesellschaft für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft e.V., Fachgruppe „Computervermittelte Kommunikation“ (Eds.), Kommunikationspolitik für die digitale Gesellschaft (pp. 152–172). ifpuk – Institute for Media and Communication Studies at FU Berlin.

Gervais, B. T. (2014). Incivility Online: Affective and Behavioral Reactions to Uncivil Political Posts in a Web-based Experiment. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 12(2), 167–185. https://doi.org/10.1080/19331681.2014.997416

Graf, J., Erba, J., & Harn, R.-W. (2016). The Role of Civility and Anonymity on Perceptions of Online Comments. Mass Communication and Society, 20(4), 526–549. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2016.1274763

Hsueh, M., Yogeeswaran, K., & Malinen, S. (2015). “Leave Your Comment Below”: Can Biased Online Comments Influence Our Own Prejudicial Attitudes and Behaviors? Human Communication Research, 41(4), 557–576. https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12059

Kalch, A., & Naab, T. K. (2017). Replying, disliking, flagging: How users engage with uncivil and impolite comments on news sites. Studies in Communication | Media, 6(4), 395–419. https://doi.org/10.5771/2192-4007-2017-4-395

Kim, Y. (2015). Exploring the Effects of Source Credibility and Others’ Comments on Online News Evaluation. Electronic News, 9(3), 160–176. https://doi.org/10.1177/1931243115593318

Kramer, N. C., Winter, S., Neubaum, G., Roesner, L., Eimler, S., & Oliver, M. B. (Eds.) 2017. I Feel What They Say: The Effect of Social Media Comments on Viewers’ Affective Reactions Toward Elevating Online Videos.

Ksiazek, T. B. (2017). Commenting on the News. Journalism Studies, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2016.1209977

Lee, E.-J., & Yoon Jae Jang. (2010). What Do Others’ Reactions to News on Internet Portal Sites Tell Us? Effects of Presentation Format and Readers’ Need for Cognition on Reality Perception. Communication Research, 37(6), 825–846. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650210376189

Lee, M. (2015). The Persuasive Effects of Reading Others’ Comments on a News Article. Current Psychology, 34(4), 753–761. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-014-9287-5

Lee, S., & Potter, R. F. (2018). The Impact of Emotional Words on Listeners’ Emotional and Cognitive Responses in the Context of Advertisements. Communication Research, 2, 009365021876552. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650218765523

Neumann, K., & Arendt, F. (2016). „Der Pranger der Schande“. Publizistik, 61(3), 247–265. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11616-016-0283-7

Ng, E. W. J., & Detenber, B. H. (2005). The Impact of Synchronicity and Civility in Online Political Discussions on Perceptions and Intentions to Participate. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(3), 0. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2005.tb00252.x

Prochazka, F., Weber, P., & Schweiger, W. (2016). Effects of civility and reasoning in user comments on perceived journalistic quality. Journalism Studies, 1–17.

Riordan, M. A., & Trichtinger, L. A. (2017). Overconfidence at the Keyboard: Confidence and Accuracy in Interpreting Affect in E-Mail Exchanges. Human Communication Research, 43(1), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12093

Rösner, L., Winter, S., & Krämer, N. C. (2016). Dangerous minds? Effects of uncivil online comments on aggressive cognitions, emotions, and behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 461–470. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.01.022

Santana, A. D. (2011). Online Readers’ Comments Represent New Opinion Pipeline. Newspaper Research Journal, 32(3), 66–81. https://doi.org/10.1177/073953291103200306

Sikorski, C. v. (2016). The effects of reader comments on the perception of personalized scandals: Exploring the roles of comment valence and commenters’social status. International Journal of Communication. (10), 4480–4501.

Sikorski, C. von, & Hänelt, M. (2016). Scandal 2.0: How Valenced Reader Comments Affect Recipients’ Perception of Scandalized Individuals and the Journalistic Quality of Online News. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 93(3), 551–571. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077699016628822

Sung, K. H., & Lee, M. J. (2015). Do Online Comments Influence the Public’s Attitudes Toward an Organization? Effects of Online Comments Based on Individuals’ Prior Attitudes. The Journal of Psychology, 149(3-4), 325–338. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2013.879847

Waddell, T. F., & Bailey, A. (2017). Inspired by the crowd: The effect of online comments on elevation and universal orientation. Communication Monographs, 84(4), 534–550. https://doi.org/10.1080/03637751.2017.1369137

Walther, J. B., DeAndrea, D., Kim, J., & Anthony, J. C. (2010). The Influence of Online Comments on Perceptions of Antimarijuana Public Service Announcements on YouTube. Human Communication Research, 36(4), 469–492. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2010.01384.x

Winter, S., & Krämer, N. C. (2016). Who’s right: The author or the audience? Effects of user comments and ratings on the perception of online science articles. Communications, 41(3), 597. https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2016-0008

Ziegele, M., & Quiring, O. (2016). Conceptualizing Online Discussion Value: A Multidimensional Framework for Analyzing User Comments on Mass-Media Websites. Annals of the International Communication Association, 37(1), 125–153. https://doi.org/10.1080/23808985.2013.11679148

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