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EMAC 2013 : a lesson of humility

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For an academic in the field of marketing research, the EMAC conference is the place to be to meet his/her pairs. I work each year towards this goal but this year the odds have decided I would not present my ideas and my results. My two papers got rejected and this result, although difficult to accept, has positive aspects but brings also questions along.


Is there a strategy to increase the odds of being accepted?

This is at least what I was thinking and that’s why I prepared two papers : a qualitative paper at the interface between two disciplines with very low chance of acceptance, and a classical quantitative paper which should have had higher chances.

Although both got rejected, what struck me what the differences between the ratings of the two reviewers. One reviewer wrote that the paper was “very interesting”, the other one it was ”useless”. As one of my colleagues (a renown professor in a UK University with whom I wrote the second paper) told me afterwards, “there is no such thing as luck when submitting a paper to a conference”. She seems to be right.


Is there space for research at the interface between disciplines?

My belief is that the greatest advancements can be made when mixing concepts and theories from different worlds. Entrepreneurship and marketing, Linguistics and marketing for instance. Yet the result is that the product of this non-classical research is difficult to get approved. The first paper that was rejected was looking to apply linguistics theories to a marketing topic, namely complaints handling. The concepts used in this paper were unknown to most marketing specialists (maxims of Grice, face-threatening acts), requiring thus lengthy explanations. However the submission process at most conferences requires limited-length abstracts. For the EMAC it’s a 7-page abstract : the first page bears only the title and you can count on the last two for your bibliography. Four pages remain to sum up your whole research. Where is there space left to explain concept borrowed from other disciplines. If you can’t do it what happens is that you get comments such as “I have no idea what this concept is and your paper therefore doesn’t contribute anything to the advancement of our discipline”.


Some positive aspects though

The positive aspects of such a harsh and difficult reviewing process are however twofold.

First, unlike in the business world, a blind reviewing process gives you the opportunity to be assessed on objective criteria. In the business world you are often assessed too but subjective criteria also count.

Second, the comments you receive may be hard to accept. They are not criticizing the author of course but a paper and the underlying idea. Yet, when you try to promote new ideas you tend to take criticism personally. Criticism is however sound; if my paper was rejected in means that I hadn’t found the way to convince my audience and reviewers’ comments tell me where to dig to make my ideas more successful.


PS: my dearest thanks to Florence.

Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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