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Formulating Interesting Research Questions

By Glenn B. Voss


I frequently hear lamentations that research appearing in academic journals is not interesting. The reasons advanced include the academic writing style not being interesting and the potential audience for the article being relatively small. There also is widespread criticism of the academic review process, such as: • Reviewers are overly critical, protect their turf, squelch creative new ideas, and are slow to respond. • Editors are too conservative, too passive, and reject everything (that I write). The result is that academic research is perceived as irrelevant and incremental and is rarely read. It should come as no surprise that the academic review process is viewed as flawed. The evaluation and production of new ideas is, at best, an ill-structured problem, and market failure in this process is universally evident. For example, the television and film industries spend billions to develop, evaluate, and distribute new concepts. Publishers search for promising new authors and manuscripts. Advertisers create new images and messages. The success rate for these various efforts is underwhelming. And we the public see only the small percentage of ideas that survive the review and evaluation process. The programming of academic research is unique in that the audience for new ideas also plays the role of producer and reviewer. Thus, unlike television programming where my only option is either to watch or not, I read academic journals, participate in the review process, and occasionally contribute content as an author. In all of these capacities, I am excited by research that is interesting, which I define as research that makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge. Unfortunately, as a reviewer, I frequently read papers that are not interesting, and even the authors are hard-pressed to clearly articulate the study’s contribution. Thus, although the review process at many scholarly journals may have deficiencies, a

Publisher: W
Year: 2003
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