Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

What Makes Management Research Interesting?: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

What Makes Management Research Interesting?: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

The question of "What makes management research interesting?" offers a unique opportunity for academics to engage in an introspective process of examining the craft of the management profession. The idea for undertaking this study was spurred in part by the recent discussion on "interesting" research in the Academy of Management Journal (AMJ), and the subsequent reflections upon this theme by the authors of interesting papers (see Barley, 2006; Bartunek et al., 2006; Dutton and Dukerich, 2006). In the present study, our aspiration is not to produce a recipe for what scholars must consider when undertaking research; rather, our focus is to uncover the broad attributes of papers that scholars have deemed to be interesting.

Why does being interesting matter? Since interesting research need not necessarily be the most important research, would a discussion on this topic add value to organizational theorizing and research? Bartunek et al. (2006) offered some compelling arguments to justify research on interesting research. First, scholars who produce interesting research have more influence on their readers, an argument echoed by Davis who noted that "a theorist is considered great, not because his/her theories are true, but because they are interesting.., the capacity to stimulate interest is a necessary characteristic of greatness" (1971: 309). Second, interesting work may generate greater learning through greater involvement. Third, producing more interesting research may be essential to attract and retain future researchers. To the above, we can add other arguments: interesting research findings are likely to be retained longer by their readers and generate further research. As Sansone and Thoman (2005) observed, experiencing interest is an emotion that can affect a person's task performance; hence, interest may foster intrinsically motivated behaviors. Ainley et al. (2002) suggest that readers who perceive an article as interesting may have greater positive effect, which in turn can result in greater efforts on their part to act on the new knowledge. Many interesting research studies also contain serendipitous or counter-intuitive findings that direct or at times re-direct new research.

The present study was initiated with two key objectives. First, we wanted to find out whether other researchers agree with the AMJ editorial board's prescriptions on attributes of interesting research. The six attributes for interesting research listed in the journal were not grounded in theory, nor based on a well-designed empirical investigation. Further, only inputs from AMJ board members were canvassed with the attributes themselves being the outcomes of a content analysis of each member's rationale for nominating an article as being an exemplar of interesting research. The reviewers were not asked to specifically comment on potential attributes of interesting research. It could very well be that the nature of the article chosen by each member influenced the importance rating assigned by the person. Finally, and with only one exception, all of the nominated articles came from either the Academy of Management Journal or Administrative Sciences Quarterly and, hence, a response bias may exist. Both these journals are generally considered to be empirically oriented; this may reduce the probability of a non-empirical article from being considered as interesting. Our focus here was on employing a more objective approach to understanding the construct of "interesting research" that might yield some common dimensions to which a broader spectrum of business academics could agree. Through a study that used a random sampling process, we hoped to collect information from a wider group of researchers. We also felt that an assessment of attributes without referring to specific journal articles can potentially reduce personal and auspices biases in rating.

Secondly, we wondered whether members of editorial and review boards differed in their views on interesting research compared to non-members. …

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