Too many streams of research…

In our school we are encouraged to work with various area groups (at least in first two years of the PhD program). This has resulted in collaborative projects with strategy and OB faculty members and PhD students. Now, I have diverse range of papers submitted to different journals. Some examples are given below:

a) Role of Boards in Non-profit sector (R&R from Journal of Management

b) Geographic Diversification and Performance (To be submitted to Journal of International Business Studies)

c) Comparison of PLS and Covariance based Multigroup analysis (R&R from MISQ)

d) Effect of CMC on social capital (2nd round of review at ISR)

e) Infusion of Technology-An individual perspective (R&R at MISQ)

f) Online Vendor Characteristics, Trust, and Customer Repurchasing Intention-A Cross-Country Validation (under review at ISR)

There are couple of other projects that spans across the OB, Strategy and IS areas. I have following questions regarding this diversity of research streams…

1) Having these diverse projects does provide a holistic view of business activities but is it seen as lack of focus?

2) Is working in too many streams of research seen as a weakness or lack of coherence?

3) How one can build this diverse research as a strength in CV and covering letter for job application?

Any other perspectives on this topic will be very helpful…



9 Responses

  1. This is a good question. The senior faculty at my program tell me that while diversity in research is good, eventually you need to focus on no more than three, preferably two, areas of interest. As a doc student, we have a bit more freedom to explore areas, especially early in our program. However, as we get more involved in research and teaching, we may be stretching ourselves thin in some areas. You may also be seen as a gadfly, jumping from project to project. While such “jumping” may result in a substantial number of publications, you may lack depth (and perhaps quality) in any one area.

    Finally, while there are certainly sunk costs in doing research in a certain area (e.g., I may want to investigate the effects of social contagion on organizational IT adoption; in doing so I will need to read all of the major literature in both social contagion and org IT adoption), there are also recurring costs in staying up to date in current, ongoing research in an area.

    I don’t know who said this, but I’ve heard it a number of times: “An individual can only do two things really well.” Would you agree?

  2. Thank you Nick for your insightful and forthright comments. Highly appreaciated. You are quite correct. It is very demanding to keep ahead and keep updated in so many different fields and I can imagine with taching load and service activities it would be simply impossible to even attend to revisions of papers in timely manner. Working on new and diverse fields will be unthinkable. I appreciate your comments…

    I am thinking of grouping my research in three streams

    1) Social Capital and CMC
    2) E-Commerce
    3) Research Methodology

    What are your thoughts…

  3. Israr, now that I see your three categories, your list of papers makes more sense. Also, perhaps your categories will change over time. For instance, methods will always be around, but I imagine that e-commerce will likely change rapidly over the next 5-10 years.

    With respect to your third question – How one can build this diverse research as a strength in CV and covering letter for job application? – perhaps you can start thinking of how you can combine these themes. For instance, are there linkages across social capital, CMC, and e-commerce? I have no idea, but interactions across themes are always cool. Hmm, that sounds like another line… interactions (i.e., moderation) are always more interesting than main effects.

  4. Nick, Thank you for your suggestions. Combining diverse fields appears a good idea and you are right, interactions are always more appealing than main effects. For example, I am looking into interactions of communication technologies and social networks.

    Will you be attending OCIS? If you are then I would like to meet you during AoM conference.

  5. I’m in an interdisciplinary PhD program and we’re also encouraged to pursue several different research streams in the fist couple of years. I currently work with professors in several other departments, and while we are also supposed to narrow our focus, I think that this approach is very helpful. Once we decide what we want our research focus to be, we’ll be able to look at the problems from a wide variety of perspectives and come up with unique solutions and explanations.

    I think a lot of us are having this problem, but hopefully it’ll end up benefiting us in the end.

  6. Marla, thats true. Interdisciplinary perspective provides many vantage point to look our research and see how it fits in various themes. This also help us in contextualizing our research in broader fields that are tought in MBA program.

    I couldn’t agree more…

  7. We recently had a conference on “Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities” at Ivey Business School. The central theme of this comference was fusion of various traditions, perspectives and frameworks to generate fresh insights. I quote from conference website:

    “Fusion in the visual arts, literature, and music involves combining two or more perspectives, theories, frameworks, traditions, or styles. A fusion works poorly if it leads to con-fusion, and works well when (1) building block elements are internally well balanced and maintain their own individual character, (2) elements within one framework draw out and accentuate the distinct ‘sounds’ and ‘flavours’ of the other, and (3) the whole combination results in a unique experience that is more than, and different from what can be achieved by each framework”

    It further elaborates the theme with an analogy:

    “The spirit of the conference is analogous to the spirit behind fusion cuisine. The nature of fusion cooking might be described as a demonstration by chefs of their creative disillusionment with traditional cooking. Their expression is framed by a determination to make food more interesting, to generate excitement about diverse ingredients from different cooking traditions that contribute to the overall excellence of the dish while retaining the individual flavours or characters of the ingredients. The key to fusion cuisine is its ability to generate innovative and stimulating food experiences. Similarly the theme of Learning Fusion encourages new ways of thinking about organizational learning, knowledge and capabilities”

    This would suggest that as long as diverse streams of research do not lead to confusion, there is synergies to be gained from diversity of perspectives, framework and models.

    What are your opinions/views?

  8. My favorite approach to the challenges and benefits of this “fusion of various traditions, perspectives and frameworks” is the methodological pluralism approach by integral theorist Ken Wilber.

    He has an introduction to it in the first chapter of his latest book, Integral Spirituality — don’t worry about the title, he talks about the historical developments in science from empiricism to positivistic empirical science to interpretism to postmodernism and beyond. A more indepth exploration of IMP can started online at

    I recently presented this as an approach to IT diffusion at the IFIP 8.6 working group meeting.


  9. […] 23, 1:45 PM  on the post ‘ What are “Best Practices” for working papers?’ Comment by mike ginn at  Jun 25, 1:54 PM  on the post ‘ Too many streams of research…’ […]

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