Happy New Year!
I hope you are looking forward to 2019! Personally, the new year has many exciting things in store for me research-wise. I’m especially excited because my first book (The Generation Myth: How to Improve Intergenerational Relationships in the Workplace, published by BEP) is expected to come out this spring. I’ve also co-edited a three-volume book set on leadership due out early this year. Prior to these projects, most of my work has been published either as peer-reviewed journal articles or individual chapters in edited books.
Since I’ve been thinking about research, I’ve been reflecting on knowledge in general and particularly how new knowledge based on current research gets introduced into the classroom. So, I thought I’d share with you my perspective on the research process for my field (management/organizational behavior). My statements probably would not apply to all academic fields, but they represent my perspective on my own personal academic area.
It might come as a surprise to some of my undergraduate students that, just like them, researcher-oriented professors are expected to write papers. Our papers usually involve firsthand collection and analysis of data. For the field of management, this could be survey or interview data from individuals in the workforce, public (or even private) records of organizations or performance history.
After months of collecting and analyzing data, research-oriented professors will spend several more months writing their paper. Once a solid draft, with clearly articulated arguments supported by data and no grammatical errors, is complete it is often submitted to a conference, by which it can either be accepted or rejected. In this decision, conference organizers rely on volunteer reviewers who are experts in similar fields of research to make recommendations. These reviewers are anonymous to authors and authors are confidential to the reviewers (this method of reviewing is called “double-blind peer review”). Some of the top conferences (such as Academy of Management and Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, for example) can have a 50 percent or lower acceptance rate depending on the year. All papers that are submitted get feedback from reviewers. Those that are accepted are presented at the conferences by their authors to an audience of peer academics who also provide feedback during question-and-answer sessions immediately following presentations. All feedback (from reviews and the audience) helps authors revise their papers. Revisions could be minimal such as clarifying some statements or extensive such as re-analyzing or collecting more data.
Once revisions are complete, authors submit their papers for publication. Optimally, these would be published in a peer-reviewed academic journal or as a book chapter in an edited and peer-reviewed book. Papers undergo a review process similar to that of a conference and authors are provided with one of three decisions on their manuscripts: reject, accept or revise. Some top journals can have lower than a 20 percent acceptance rate and it is rare for any paper to be accepted without any revisions. Getting reviews back can take months and then the process of authors responding to reviewers’ concerns and revising their papers can take several additional months. Some papers might require two or three rounds of reviews and revisions before being published (I actually had one undergo seven different revisions!). It is not uncommon to have papers undergo this part of the research process for two or more years, especially if a paper is rejected by a journal and the authors need to start the process again at new journal (authors can’t submit a paper to the same journal again once the journal has rejected it).
So, that said, the publication of academic papers in the management field can sometimes be 3-6 years after the initial first draft (if they are published at all). Incorporating this new knowledge (after all, the purpose of research is to uncover new areas of knowledge) into textbooks can take another few years once other research has been done to support a paper’s claims and enough is known about a topic. Thus, knowledge appearing for the first time in new editions of textbooks can already be about 10 years from when initial research was done – hopefully this information is not outdated or refuted by other research before the textbook is published. As an example, there is one statement on generational differences in the textbook that I use for my undergraduate organizational behavior class that has been debunked by research that I conducted in 2017.
This is why it is important for academics to stay current in their field and not rely solely on the textbooks that they use for class. In the case of the statement I found to be inaccurate in the text I use, I often supplement our lecture by presenting my own research and providing my article as supplementary reading. Thus, academics must constantly incorporate our own research as well as research that we read into the classroom regularly in order for our content to be as current as possible.
Do you think that the statements above apply to your own field of academic interest? Does anything about the process noted above surprise you? I’m interested to hear your thoughts! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, message me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/urickmj/) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-urick-05b775a3/) or leave me a comment here.
Dr. Mike Urick