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Balancing Theory With Hot Topic Relevant Research - Andrew Stephen


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This presentation was given by Andrew Stephen, University of Pittsburgh, at a pre-conference of the 2015 American Marketing Association Winter Marketing Educators Conference in San Antonio, TX.

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Balancing Theory With Hot Topic Relevant Research - Andrew Stephen

  1. 1. BALANCING THEORY WITH HOT TOPIC RELEVANT RESEARCH Andrew Stephen University of Pittsburgh
  2. 2. What is a “hot” topic? Novelty – to academics, practitioners Important, relevant, meaningful Lots of open questions Lots of buzz about it
  3. 3. BUT BE CAREFUL… • A hot topic worthy of academic research needs to allow for scholarly theory building and testing • It is great to listen to marketing practitioners to get a sense of what’s important to them…but realize that what’s “hot” about a “hot topic” in their minds might not be relevant in a scholarly context – E.g., “big data” • Be inspired and intrigued by what’s happening “out there” but bring scholarly thinking and frameworks to bear on interesting “hot” real-world phenomena
  5. 5. THEORY? • Problem with “hot” topics, particularly the novel ones, is that you probably don’t have an established theory that you can use • Really? • There’s got to be something out that there that helps understand/explain the phenomenon of interest – Prior literature in marketing – Literature in other fields – Your own “theories”
  6. 6. (sort of)
  7. 7. • Thought of like a virtual shopping mall • Shopping mall  research on retail demand externalities • Apply similar concepts to this new phenomenon and context • Find analogies
  8. 8. • Mobile display ads – new and not well understood • What makes an ad effective? • Used “old” theory of persuasion and info processing (ELM) to explain differences in effectiveness • Generate hypotheses based on existing theory and test them in the hot/new context
  9. 9. • Some studies showed how using Facebook boosted self esteem • Non-social media literature links self esteem with lower self control • Combine effects or theories from prior literature to understand novel context
  10. 10. FINAL THOUGHTS • Beauty (hotness) is in the eye of the beholder – almost any marketing or consumer phenomenon could be construed as a hot topic or positioned as one – Don’t do research on hot topics because they are hot – Work on topics that you care about and that you think are meaningful and relevant • Easy to get carried away with novel/new/hot areas (and cool datasets!) and not pay much attention to the theory side of things – Most of us have been in this situation – It is okay to use substantive/practical aspects of a project to inform theory development – But you must have theory even if the contribution is substantive – goal is to explain something, not merely describe it • Theory can come from a variety of sources – Prior literature in unrelated contexts that somehow applies (analogies) – Prior literature on generally related topics (application to new context) – Prior literature in same/related contexts (combining and extending) – Or something brand new!