Developing Research Skills

The ultimate goal of any Ph.D. program is to produce skilled researchers who can make a valuable contribution to the discipline. To teach students these skills, we involve them in research from the earliest stages of the program, and require that they complete a series of research projects that each develop a different skill. Much of the student’s coursework will also allow for the hands-on development of conceptual and methodological research skills.

Overview: Students are required to engage in an independent research project during the first summer of their program. The intent of this project is to help students develop skills for conducting original research prior to undertaking the doctoral dissertation. Students are expected to work independently, but are allowed to receive feedback from appropriate faculty members when designing and implementing the summer research project.

Topic: The nature of the research, in terms of both problem definition and methodological approach, is to be determined by the student, in consultation with appropriate faculty. This research may be designed to explore a substantive marketing issue (e.g., explaining why manufacturers use coupons), test theoretical accounts of consumer or market behavior (e.g., testing key hypotheses within the Elaboration Likelihood Model of attitude formation and change), or develop a methodological contribution (e.g., comparing attribute importance weights derived from different measurement approaches).

Report: The nature of the report should closely parallel the form of a manuscript submitted for possible publication to one of the field’s professional journals. Ideally, the manuscript should be no longer than 25-30 pages. The student should consult a style manual such as Strunk and White, Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, 2000, recent issues of the Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Marketing Research, and his or her advisor for guidance in the preparation of the manuscript. It is strongly recommended that the advisor read and comment on a first draft of the manuscript prior to its submission to the Graduate Coordinator.

Overview: A qualifying examination must be passed before a student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. Consistent with University of Florida Graduate School requirements, the marketing qualifying examination consists of both written and oral components. The written component of the exam is an independent scholarly paper to be prepared by the student over a period of several months. Immediately following the Spring semester of the student’s second year in the program, at which time all required Marketing courses that have been offered must be completed, the Marketing Department faculty will meet to review the student’s progress. Coursework performance as well as the first year summer project and any other research activity will be considered. Assuming a favorable review, the student will then commence work on the written qualifying exam. The final product, to be described more fully below, is due no later than the first day of classes of the following Spring semester (a period of approximately eight months). Students are encouraged to submit their papers earlier than that date.

Content: The paper is to be an integrative review of an important area of research in the field of marketing. For example, see Debbie Roedder John, “Consumer Socialization of Children: A Retrospective Look at Twenty-Five Years of Research,” JCR, December 1999, or Joseph W. Alba and J. Wesley Hutchinson, “Knowledge Calibration: What Consumers Know and What They Think They Know,” JCR, September 2000. The paper should, at a minimum, include theoretical propositions that are testable in principle, as well as implications and priorities for future research in the area. The paper should be capable of forming the basis for the student’s dissertation research, though it will typically be broader than the dissertation itself. It is hoped that the review paper may be publishable in one of the major journals in the field.

Process: As stated above, the paper is to be an independent effort by the student. Faculty members are available as resource people and may provide broad, informal guidance. Generally, faculty will not be involved with activities such as reading and commenting on early drafts of the paper. The intent of the paper is to develop the student’s capacity for independent, creative research, so the role of the faculty is necessarily more informal and non-directive than is the case for the first year summer project.

The doctoral dissertation is designed to demonstrate that the candidate is capable of conducting significant independent scholarly research. The dissertation is expected to be of such scope, magnitude, and originality as to indicate that the student has acquired a command of the marketing area being investigated and that s/he has the ability to contribute new knowledge or outlook to the field.

The conceptualization of the dissertation topic is an important and difficult task. In this phase of the dissertation the student is required to prepare a written dissertation proposal, developed through consultation with the supervisory committee and others. Immediately after the dissertation topic is formally approved by the supervisory committee, the student makes a presentation at a Marketing Workshop. Copies of the proposal are made available to all marketing Ph.D. students and faculty members. At the workshop the student has an opportunity to explain and discuss the proposal, and receive feedback on the proposed dissertation.

The dissertation represents the most important research endeavor of the student’s doctoral program. The dissertation project is expected to be of substantial magnitude; the final paper should be of sufficient originality and quality to merit publication, either in whole or in parts as professional journal articles. The dissertation thus serves as the primary “positioning” of the student in the marketing discipline; i.e., the dissertation allows others in the field to anticipate the content and quality of the student’s research during the early portion of his or her career.