A CONVERSATION ON CONVERSATIONS: A RESEARCH JOURNEY WITH PROFESSOR ANNE SIGISMUND HUFF - Technische Universität München (TUM)

By Kemp, Sharon | Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

A CONVERSATION ON CONVERSATIONS: A RESEARCH JOURNEY WITH PROFESSOR ANNE SIGISMUND HUFF - Technische Universität München (TUM)


Kemp, Sharon, Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management


Anne S. Huff has a reputation that goes before her for helping other academics, particularly in their endeavours to have their work published. I attended one of Anne's sessions on writing for scholarly publication and had my eyes opened to the traps a researcher can fall into; I was also made aware of ways to focus my effort to maximum effect. In the workshop sessions that Anne conducts she shares her successes but also acknowledges she too had difficulties in getting her research accepted for publication. I trusted that her advice was sound because she has been there and done that

Some time after the workshop I felt the need to bring the conversations that we had during that workshop to a wider audience. I asked Anne if she would consent to an interview that would take readers along one of her research journeys. To my surprise Anne was more than delighted to do the interview and she found the idea of having the focus of our conversation on the process or research journey she undertook rather than the outcomes that are usually reported in journals quite novel. We agreed to meet at the EURAM 2005 conference which she co-organised.

Research is reported in a different way than it was first conceived. An interesting (but often undiscussed) aspect of research is the process or journey that is undertaken to reach the reported outcomes. Junior and senior staff alike can learn a great deal from understanding the research journey that eminent scholars have undertaken. In this conversation Professor Huff takes us along the research path she followed in several projects, especially work with Professor Louis Pondy between 1979 and 1986. Anne discusses how the research changed shape over time as well as detailing how and why the research came to an end. She gives us an insight into problems that resulted in deviations from an initial research plan. Through Anne's discussion of the research we discover how issues were handled and with the benefit of hindsight what aspects of the research she would change. Finally, Anne shares some general lessons for undertaking research.

WHO IS MYAUDIENCE?

I spend a lot of my teaching time helping people think about how to write for scholarly publication. As you know, Sharon, many of the ideas I use can be found in Writing for Scholarly Publication. published by Sage. The book gives a few more details about my difficulties getting articles published. I think a major problem was my interdisciplinary training. My undergraduate degree is in philosophy. I got my PhD in Management, but a Masters in Sociology. I was also part of a group that received funding from a political science institution as a graduate student.

At that time everyone thought that interdisciplinary work was really important, which meant that I read very broadly, collected diverse articles and books that interested me, and then wrote about various subjects that attracted my attention. I scooped up as much of the material that I had collected as possible in my first writing efforts but quite rightly got rejections. My papers were about too many things, they addressed so many topics they had to be superficial in each area, and then they came to too many, too diverse, conclusions.

Gradually, I came to understand that academic work is a collective effort. It is a community effort. I couldn't expect an audience if I was addressing so many different topics. The set, though interesting to me, were an idiosyncratic result of a very personal history. Good scholarship, in contrast, means connecting with other scholars who have similar interests. Promising subjects of research are collectively defined and progress is a result of multiple efforts. Once I realised I was much more likely to say something interesting if I was explicit about the group I was addressing, I began to have more success. Focusing on a target audience helped me see which of many interests I should emphasise and which I should put in the background or put aside altogether. …

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