Dr. Sheth was recently interviewed by Tacho Yo at Southern Illinois University.
Tacho: 1. How do you get research ideas?
Dr. Jagdish Sheth: I get research ideas in three ways. First, they come from observations of reality for which there is no good explanation or there are multiple explanations. For example, why some countries drink only 64 bottles of Coca Cola per year per capita and others drink 400 per year?
Second, it comes from challenging the prevailing wisdom. For example, we believe that consumers make choices (rational or behavioral). Instead, I always believed that consumer reduce choices and develop habits. The underlying mechanisms for choices vary significantly between these two propositions. Making choices requires comparing two or more alternatives at a point in time on some utility criteria. Reducing choices requires learning over time through experience and feedback.
Finally, research ideas come by focusing on an emerging area that no one has really observed or articulated. It is altogether new or what is referred as the Blue Ocean. In my case, this was the basis for research on consumer behavior, multivariate statistics and relationship marketing. I am now focusing on marketing issues of emerging markets.
2. How do you further develop those research ideas?
I like to conceptualize first. I read more about the phenomenon, cogitate for a while, and then develop a framework.
Once I am comfortable with conceptualization, I make presentations to different audiences and refine the conceptual framework and its organization.
I don’t do as much experimental or survey research anymore. Also, I do not do data mining as I used to do earlier in my career.
3. How do you organize necessary information (use files, note cards), including literature, data, experimental format, etc.
Since most of my recent work is organizing the extant knowledge, I keep pertinent information in different file folders. I am still computer illiterate. Therefore, everything I do including this interview is written in handwriting and it will be typed by my assistant.
Also, while I am writing a paper, I collect books and articles and spread them over a large table at my home office. As I am developing the flow of the paper, I reach out different articles, chapters in books and any other material for citation and validation of the points I want to make. This has been the system from my first paper, “A Review of Buyer Behavior” in Management Science, (published in 1967); and it has been also true for the most recent paper on “Impact of Emerging Markets on Marketing: Rethinking Perspectives and Practices” recently published in Journal of Marketing (in 2011).
4. If graduate students have been involved any of your research projects, what do they normally do for the research?
In the old days, I requested my graduate students to do library research or data analysis. Nowadays, I discuss my conceptual framework and get their critique and feedback.
5. How do you select target journals?
There are two criteria in selecting a target journal. First, does the paper fit the journal’s mission and focus? For example, if the paper is on consumer behavior, I would target Journal of Consumer Research (JCR). If it is a managerial paper, I would target Journal of Marketing (JM) or Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (JAMS). If it is a paper on a research method, I would target Journal of Marketing Research (JMR) or Management Science.
A second criterion is the target audience. For example, if the paper is specific to retailing, it might be better to submit to Journal of Retailing. If it is specific to international, one would target Journal of International Marketing (JIM) or Journal of International Business Studies (JIBS).
6. How do you reply to reviewers’ comments?
There are basically three types of replies to reviewer’s comments. The first is to acknowledge a reviewer’s comments as constructive feedback if it improves your argument or reinforces your research findings. Usually this happens when the reviewer suggests some specific papers or books that you may have missed.
Second, if the reviewer wants me to take a different position or pushes his or her own agenda, I usually hold my position and suggest why I am not willing to change my perspective or research technique.
Finally, when the reviewer is patently wrong in his or her review (and this often happens with research methodology), I appeal to the Editor of the journal and point out the mistake.
Over time, I have experienced all of the above three types of comments from reviewers.
7. Final Input
I have three pieces of advice to give to all doctoral students. First, write a research paper as a solo author; get the feedback and comments from as many experts as you can get; and based on comments, you revise the paper and submit to a journal.
Second, make sure the paper is positioned right. Framing the issue in the first three paragraphs makes all the difference in the way a reviewer evaluates the paper. Also, have the self confidence to submit to the top journals.
Finally, not all research is publishable. One major objective of research is to become expert in an area of your curiosity and passion. Just as the best way to learn is to teach, the best way to become a scholar is to research.