Getting ideas for an academic
study: Ph.D. and Master’s
A Presentation in the Toulouse Graduate
School, University of North Texas
Charles Blankson, Ph.D. Department of Marketing & Logistics, College of
Business, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas
The nature of the Ph.D. degree
• Traditionally, while the master’s degree is a license
to practice, a doctoral degree is a license to teach –
in a university.
• The concept stems from the need for a faculty
member to be an authority, in full command of the
subject, right up to the boundaries of current
knowledge, and be able to extend them (Phillips
and Pugh, 1993).
The route to tenure is fraught with undulating experiences but with a view
to a “soft landing” for all stakeholders involved (Assistant Professor, Faculty colleagues, Dept.
Chair, Senior colleagues, Dean, Provost, Department Administrators/secretaries, computer technicians).
Getting ideas for Ph.D. study
Think in terms of “creating new knowledge” and/or “filling a gap in knowledge.”
• Observation and interaction with subjects/objects –
participant observation
• Personal experience
• Curiosity – work with research-active faculty (start in the
first year)
• Personal deduction
• Purposeful reading of current business/social conundrum
or challenge or interest or text book or journal articles
• Media and public information on an issue (issues)
• Following an expert’s study or guidelines (e.g., a wellknown researcher’s or committee member’s research
stream – Dr. Prybutok’s expertise in Quantitative analyses,
Quality Management and the Services Industry).
Emerging Research Trends in Marketing
By Gary L. Frazier, Editor the Journal of Marketing, USC
• Marketing Manager Use of Metrics in Decision-Making. Imran Currim
and Ofer Mintz (2013), “What Drives Managerial Use of Marketing and
Financial Metrics, and Does Metric Use Impact Marketing Mix
Performance,” JM, 77 (March).
• End-Customer Inputs into New Product Development. Martin Schreier,
Christopher Fuchs, Emanuelle Prandelle, and Darren Dahl (2013), “All
that is Users Might not be Gold: Exploring Consumer Preferences for
User Developed Products of Luxury fashion Products,” in review process
at JM.
• Sustainable Products and Associated Trade-offs. Ying-Ching Lin and
Angela Chang (2012), “Double Standard: The Role of Environmental
Consciousness in Green Product Usage,” JM, 76 (September), 125-134.
Emerging Research Trends in Marketing contd.
• Product packaging and Its Design.
• The Use of Multiple Channels by Firms.
• Manufacturer, Distributor, and Retailer Pricing
• The Internet and Social Marketing.
• Customer Service Representatives: Behavior.
• Branding and Brand Equity.
What kind of papers are of interest to the
Journal of Marketing?
• Rigorous research with actionable implications
• Papers with new theoretical/substantive
insights and findings
• Any method
– Archival data, experiments, surveys, historical
methods, qualitative approaches…
• Theory-based articles (but these are not easy)
Acceptance criteria for academic research
• Interesting? – New? Non-obvious?; Change
• Broad Appeal? – Broad appeal to scholars,
managers, policy makers and so forth.
• What is your passion? Understanding your
passion may dictate the research topics you
focus upon.
Getting ideas for Ph.D. study
What is the definition of the Ph.D. degree?
What are the expectations at UNT?
What is the purpose of your study?
What is (are) the theoretical foundation(s) of the area
of interest
– Seminal/original scholarly papers – who are the
– What is the state of the literature? Who has done what?
– Determination of gaps in the literature
• How will you examine the research questions?
– What is the research context and why is it important?
Getting ideas for Ph.D. study
• The theoretical review, observations, consultations
with experts will help you focus on particular area
that has strong theoretical foundation on which to
claim legitimacy.
• Anchor your study within your discipline – with the
purpose of increasing knowledge in your field.
• The theoretical review will help you demonstrate
your thorough comprehension of your field of study
and be able to intelligently critique others’ study.
Getting ideas for Ph.D. study
• The left & right (this or that) stages:
– Select and refine a topic:
– Look at the “limitations and future research directions of
previous or current journal articles or Ph.D. dissertations”
– Review the literature – be a critical reader of articles
– Summarize and identify key issues/points
– Write, i.e., put it on paper –
write down your ideas as
they occur – use a note pad.
Write everyday, not every week.
Getting ideas for Ph.D. study
• Scan your class readings from journal articles
and textbooks
• Draw on what you have read, seen or heard
• Pick a topic that is relevant to your own ideals,
• Choose a study that you plan to publish from,
at least until you are tenured – 5-6 years post
Getting ideas for Ph.D. study
Determining gaps in the literature
• Read, summarize, critique and identify key
issues/points from each article read – place these in a
Table format
– List all references, e.g. Yadav, Manjit S. (2010), “The Decline of
Conceptual Articles and Implications for Knowledge Development”,
Journal of Marketing, 74(1), 1-19 (or see the journal)
• For each article, identify the purpose/objectives/research
• Conceptual framework – literature base/theory
• Propositions/hypotheses or statement of aim and objectives
• Research method(s) used
• Results/findings
• Conclusions
– Now, what do you see as the gaps for research?
Getting ideas for Ph.D. study
• Develop precise conceptual definitions for the
constructs and measurements – either
borrowed from the literature or DIY
• Constructs are the building blocks of theory. And
without well-developed conceptual definitions for the
constructs, it becomes difficult/impossible to develop a
coherent theory.
• Without a definition, you cannot measure a
• Avoid pseudo definitions.
Issues about definitions of constructs
• Definitions are important (Pastrana et al., 2008); they serve
as the impetus for conducting consistent research in social
phenomena; positioning is no different.
– “Despite the extensive research in the concept of positioning, a review of the
literature indicates a level of ambiguity and inconsistency associated with the
definition of the positioning. Accordingly, scholars have documented the
“absence of a clear, universally accepted definition of the construct” (Kalafatis
et al., 2000) and the lack of abiding themes capable of reflecting the basis of
positioning frameworks in the literature (Hooley, Greenley, Fahy, and Cadogan
2001; Levitt 2002; Piercy 2005; Schultz 2006).
– This quandary however, has resulted in inconsistent (and in some instances,
inaccurate) conceptualization, and research in positioning” Blankson, Dai, and
Boatswain (2013 – on-going study).
Getting ideas for Ph.D. study
• Evaluate the hypotheses before designing the empirical
Are the hypotheses clearly written?
Is each of the hypotheses falsifiable/testable?
Do any of the hypotheses involve truism or tautologies?
Are any of the hypotheses trivial to raise questions about the
• Is any of the theoretical rationale provided for each hypothesis
• Are there any additional theoretical arguments that would strengthen
the conceptual support for the hypotheses?
• Do the hypotheses to be tested represent a cohesive set?
Follow typical examples in articles (or other dissertations) and adapt to
suit your study.
Aggressively solicit criticism of your conceptual framework.
Service to the academy is positively correlated with
publication idea generation (r = .59, p <.01)
• Review manuscripts for journals and conferences –
be proactive
• Networking at academic conferences is key – sit in
“meet the editors session”
• Work with faculty in the Department who are
researching in areas of your interest – possible
dissertation committee?
• Engage in joint work with colleagues.
Designing the empirical study
• Bear in mind, nothing can be done to improve the
research methodology once the data have been
• Also, if the data are seriously flawed, no amount
of re-writing of the manuscript/dissertation can
overcome weakness of the methodology.
So, prior to embarking upon the data collection,
seek critical feedback on the research designs.
Pilot studyPretest your Questionnaire
• Start with a pilot study – qualitative research.
• Subject your already critiqued questionnaire
to rigorous pretest by experts – dissertation
committee, other faculty members.
• Then administer the refined questionnaire to
a pre-test of say, 30 participants/respondents
(e.g., students, secretaries, members of the
general public, managers etc.).
And finally…………Dr.
Understanding literature review
Research problem & Research

Presentation - Toulouse Graduate School