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Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Introduction
  3. Developing administration and leadership
  4. Developing journal content and quality
  5. Developing journal submissions
  6. Conclusions
  7. References

We are very pleased to be taking over the editorship of the International Journal of Management Reviews (IJMR) from Adrian Wilkinson and Steve Armstrong. It is quite clear that, during their tenure as Editors, they have developed the Journal significantly to be an influential publication in the area of management and organization studies (MOS). We hope very much that we shall be able to build on the foundations that they have set in place over the last five years. The increase in submissions has paid dividends in the number and quality of papers published each year. Improved quality is reflected in the impact factor of 1.714 and more than 70,000 downloads in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available. Therefore, we envisage undertaking an incremental rather than a revolutionary approach to improving the Journal's standing. To do this, we intend to target our efforts in four areas: developing the administrative systems, broadening Associate Editorships to cover gaps in expertise, strengthening links with regional academies of management, and engagement with the Editorial Board, reviewers and potential authors to improve the quality and content of both manuscripts and reviews. With regard to the last of these, we have taken the opportunity in this editorial to raise some issues about the quality of literature review manuscripts, to foreground our intention to accept more overtly conceptual and theoretically orientated literature reviews, and to promote debate about the standard of reviews received on manuscripts submitted to the Journal.

Developing administration and leadership

  1. Top of page
  2. Introduction
  3. Developing administration and leadership
  4. Developing journal content and quality
  5. Developing journal submissions
  6. Conclusions
  7. References

First, we are very keen to try to reduce the time to reach the first decision on papers sent out to review. This has previously been approximately 133 days, and we would wish to reduce that to around 10 weeks. This is certainly our target in the first 12 months of our editorship. As a result of the need to improve response times, we have already moved to a fully electronic submission system based on ScholarOne Manuscripts (S1M) –http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ijmr. This system is already in use by the British Journal of Management (BJM) and, along with the British Academy of Management (BAM) and Wiley-Blackwell, we believe this is an opportune time to align IJMR and BJM. There are many benefits to be gained from using S1M, including the accuracy of record-keeping related to response times from Editors and Associate Editors, reduction in administrative burden on the editorial team and, despite the sometimes impersonal medium of ‘automatic alerts’, a robust system that highlights bottlenecks within the review process. Our intention therefore is to ensure that we benefit from the increased professionalism associated with electronic submission, while endeavouring to maintain the personal relationship between Editors and authors. Despite the move to S1M, the actual review process remains the same as described by the previous Editors (Armstrong and Wilkinson 2007), following a standard double-blind review procedure with three reviewers per manuscript. A minimum of two reviews are required for a decision on a submission; reviewers are discipline specific and are drawn from a pool of international scholars. Our new Managing Editor, Emma Missen (who will also be Managing Editor of BJM), has many years' experience working with S1M and will be able to provide advice and help for those who either want to submit a manuscript or wish to offer their services as reviewers. The website for IJMR provides links to S1M and contact information for the editorial office. The Web address is: http://www.wiley.com/bw/journal.asp?ref=1460-8545&site=1.

Second, to aid improvement in turnaround time, we believe it is appropriate to appoint between two and four additional Associate Editors, as well as a number of Consulting Editors. The aim here is to bring expertise into areas that are under-represented among current Associate Editors, to replace those who have given many years' excellent service, and to develop a Consulting Editorial Board which is more representative of the MOS field. For example, existing areas of management scholarship that need to be supported include critical management studies, management education, corporate governance and social responsibility, gender and diversity, operations and performance management, and e-business. We see the Associate Editorial role and the Editorial Board as crucial to the future of the Journal, and we hope to recruit committed scholars who can play an active role in continuing to develop the quality of IJMR.

Third, the current and past Associate Editors have done an outstanding job in managing an increasing number of papers through the review process and in developing the quality of the Journal. Their role in identifying key areas for future papers is important, and we seek to link the areas for which Associate Editors are responsible more closely with the British Academy of Management Special Interest Groups. In that way, we suggest that IJMR can become aligned with current and emerging areas of MOS. We are keen to ensure that we maintain our commitment to BAM as one of its official journals, but also hope to develop and strengthen the Journal's international footprint. Associate Editors will be drawn from the international community, and new recruits should be capable of filling the knowledge gaps mentioned above. Also, to provide easier access to articles that are linked to a particular field, Wiley-Blackwell intend to introduce thematic Web content. This will provide direct access to all articles in, for example, the strategy field that have been published throughout the history of the Journal. This will reduce search times and allow those embarking on a research project to obtain easy access to relevant review articles in their field of study.

Fourth, we believe that the wider body of Consulting Editors should also be engaged in the development of IJMR, particularly since they represent a broad range of academic expertise and knowledge. We also wish to involve this network of scholars in promoting the Journal and encourage authors in their area of expertise to submit papers to IJMR. To support this activity, we hope to raise the profile of the Journal by continuing to participate in professional development workshops at major international conferences, including AoM, BAM, EGOS, EURAM, AAoM and ANZAM. We also see these types of events as an opportunity to engage in activities intended to raise the quality of manuscripts submitted to IJMR and to improve the timeliness and quality of reviews.

Developing journal content and quality

  1. Top of page
  2. Introduction
  3. Developing administration and leadership
  4. Developing journal content and quality
  5. Developing journal submissions
  6. Conclusions
  7. References

In the Autumn of 2009, BAM surveyed members' views on both BJM and IJMR, which elicited approximately 120 responses. Over 70% of respondents claimed to read five or more journal articles per month with the Academy of Management Journal and Review attracting the most attention. Respondents were asked to indicate the most important attributes of a journal, and these were the top three: (1) impact factor; (2) interesting research in my field; (3) material is current and topical. Perhaps of greater importance were the specific suggestions for how IJMR could be improved:

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    anticipating new research directions
  • • 
    more special issues
  • • 
    more theory papers
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    cutting-edge reviews from leading scholars
  • • 
    debates and contemporary critiques.

Anticipating new research directions does present some problems for a review journal that provides a synthesis of past empirical and conceptual work. At the same time, we agree that it is important to respond to, and if possible anticipate, changing themes within the broader academic community. Steve and Adrian have already introduced special issues dealing with organizational strategy and corporate social responsibility. We believe that special issues will have a positive impact on the influence of IJMR, and we have commissioned papers on the theme of distributed leadership, which will be published in 2011. We have also announced a special issue dealing with gender and diversity research for 2012 and would like to encourage suggestions for future special issues in 2013 and beyond. Our intention is also to broaden the scope of IJMR by encouraging the submission of more overtly conceptual papers as well as conventional literature reviews. Conceptual papers will be concerned with theory development rather than straightforward reviews of existing literature. Such papers will still be grounded in, and developed from, a synthesis of previous research in the area, or based on integrative reviews that seek to merge findings from related areas. Retaining the review element of IJMR is clearly important and is a unique feature of the Journal, as noted by Kilduff (2007) in his Academy of Management Review editorial. However, we want to balance that with more ambitious papers intended to use reviews to extend or critique existing theory and to make a contribution in proposing new directions or understandings of mature fields. We discuss this issue further below.

Respondents to the BAM survey were also asked to indicate what they thought were the strengths and weaknesses of IJMR. We certainly do not intend to compromise on the perceived strengths of the Journal, but at the same time we recognize the importance of trying to deal with some of the perceived weaknesses. Inconsistent quality is an issue that we intend to address as our first priority, although we recognize that this ‘inconsistency’ may actually reflect different styles and disciplinary areas that are being reviewed. While we believe that encouraging some conceptual papers will help to broaden IJMR's scope, we certainly do not want to lose the strength and uniqueness associated with state-of-the-art literature reviews. Nor do we agree that ‘excessive variance of topics’ is a real weakness of the Journal. It is the function of any ‘general’ journal in the area of MOS to publish good work from scholars who represent every sub-discipline. In that regard, we shall continue to encourage and solicit articles across the full range of management disciplines.

StrengthsWeaknesses
Useful review articlesNot well-known enough
UniquenessExcessive variance of topics
Approachable styleNot seen as top journal
Outlet for new researchersInconsistent quality
Open to new ideasWeak quality control
High-quality review papersMost articles not cutting edge
Broad coverageLack of impact outside Europe
Good impact factorImpact factor needs improvement
Readability 

The points related to ‘lack of impact’ and ‘not well-known enough outside Europe’ are certainly issues that we do intend to address. As noted above, we are planning to raise awareness of the Journal through the Editorial Board at major international management conferences and by promoting IJMR among emerging scholars, through such forums as doctoral colloquiums. We shall also seek to extend representation on the Editorial Board to areas of the world that are becoming increasingly influential, such as China and South America. A journal's ‘impact factor’ is crucial in encouraging leading scholars to consider it as an outlet for their work. Impact is important to both the publishers Wiley-Blackwell and to the British Academy of Management. However, we do not subscribe to the view that pursuit of impact should be an end in itself. Rather, we seek to enhance the standing of the Journal by publishing excellent papers by those at the beginning of their academic careers, as well as contributions from established scholars. We believe that attending to the development of the quality of submissions will lead to more influential papers and therefore more citations of that work.

Developing journal submissions

  1. Top of page
  2. Introduction
  3. Developing administration and leadership
  4. Developing journal content and quality
  5. Developing journal submissions
  6. Conclusions
  7. References

The current standard of papers being submitted to the Journal is actually quite disappointing, with desk rejection rates of approximately 80%. Making sense of prior research is a difficult task and one which Rousseau et al. (2008) note in their discussion in the Academy of Management Annals is rarely taught. In addition, there are different types of review which serve different purposes. This means that papers are often underdeveloped, poorly bounded and lack attention to a clear research question. Consequently, such papers make little original contribution, since they summarize, rather than critically engage with, prior research in the review area. Rather than discuss the techniques associated with carrying out a literature review, we briefly outline the principles which we consider appropriate for submissions to IJMR.

High-quality literature reviews

Rousseau et al. (2008) provide a useful distinction between a traditional literature review and a systematic synthesis of research. Traditional literature reviews, they note, often focus on a number of key or primary papers around which secondary studies are integrated to provide a summary of a particular concept, theory or subject. However, the lack of systematic treatment of an area does not mean that this type of review cannot be insightful, integrating and make a significant contribution by exploring prior research findings and theoretical development. The contribution from such a review might be identifying particular research themes, gaps, weaknesses or puzzles and, in doing so, set out specific contexts, methodologies or priorities for further research. This type of review has long been a tradition in doctoral theses in MOS and is often a precursor to empirical work. Interestingly, on researching different types of literature review for this editorial, it was clear that there are few (if any) guidelines on how to develop such standard literature reviews. Nevertheless, the guidelines for reviews for IJMR are published on the website, and some key principles are included below. They provide a useful starting point when considering the development of a manuscript for the Journal. Most articles published in IJMR have been of this type, and recent examples include Ambrosini and Bowman (2009), Jarzabkowski and Spee (2009), Blackburn and Kovalainen (2009), Wood and Wright (2009) and Schilling and Kluge (2009).

There is no shortage of advice on how to conduct systematic reviews as a basis for a credible, evidence-informed summary of practice, policy or research. Systematic reviews have their roots in medical science and, while the well established research protocols in medicine might not be suitable for MOS, this does not mean that principles are not appropriate for this discipline (Tranfield et al. 2003). Indeed, one of the major challenges for systematic reviewing in MOS is developing a methodology that allows the comparison and quality assessment of findings from a range of methodologies where there is no agreed ‘gold’ standard or dominant research approach (Mays et al. 2005; Rousseau et al. 2008; Tranfield et al. 2003). Defining a specific protocol for this emerging review practice may not be desirable, since each review adds new insights into the way the approach can be applied within MOS (Pittaway et al. 2004). However, a ‘fit for purpose’ protocol is required for each review. Denyer and Tranfield (2008) identify a core set of five principles that should guide the systematic review process; anyone embarking on such a review would be well advised to consider this advice. Systematic reviews are formulated around a specific research question, and the criteria for inclusion and exclusion of papers are clearly defined at the outset (Denyer and Tranfield 2008). Thereafter, there are a number of options for comparing, integrating and synthesizing findings in order to produce an evidence base for policy, practice or research. Mays et al. (2005) suggest that there are four different types of approaches – narrative analysis, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, and Bayesian meta-analysis and decision analysis; each approach adopting different methods. Rousseau et al. (2008), for example, define different types of narrative synthesis as aggregative, integrative, interpretation and explanation. While Denyer and Tranfield (2006) suggest that qualitative research might be reviewed using narrative synthesis, meta-ethnography or realist synthesis.

In short, decisions need to be made on the meaning, quality and type of evidence to be assessed (Denyer and Tranfield 2008) and the form of research synthesis that is to be conducted (Rousseau et al. 2008). In particular, Rousseau and her colleagues consider that the challenges facing MOS scholars when conducting systematic reviews are: disputes about relevant approaches to scientific knowledge within the discipline; the contextual political and cultural implications of evidence and assumptions that remain unexamined about the interests that this evidence might represent; and a recognition that the field has not developed research cumulatively and, as a consequence, even within sub-disciplines there is significant divergence in constructs applied to the same (or similar) research questions. Thus, before embarking on a systematic review, it is essential that the reviewer or review team is fully cognizant of the issues, methodologies and assumptions that underpin such an approach. The reward is the potential to develop a significant contribution to policy, practice and research. Evidence produced from a systematic review has the ability to have a real impact when experienced practising managers, policy-makers or researchers use such findings to inform the judgements that they make in their day-to-day work (Denyer and Tranfield 2008). There are fewer overtly systematic reviews in IJMR, but recent papers that have adopted this approach include Rashman et al. (2009) and Lee (2009).

Regardless of the approach adopted to review past research in a particular field, whether it is a traditional or systematic literature review, we believe the principles of a ‘state of the art’ literature review include:

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    the choice of a field or sub-field in MOS that is mature enough to warrant a literature review
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    details of how the boundaries to that field have been defined to include specific details of what is included and excluded, and why
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    a synthesis and evaluation of the accumulated state of knowledge in that field, summarizing and highlighting current and emerging insight, while stressing strengths and weaknesses of prior work
  • • 
    consideration of how research has developed in the field into sub-categories, concepts or themes that can provide a more holistic interpretation and categorization of that field
  • • 
    a complete analysis of the literature surveyed in terms of discussions of any contrasting methodologies used in the literature, the strength and weakness of particular approaches to studying the subject under review, the quality of the studies in the field, the general conclusions to be drawn from the literature (for example, the current agreements and disagreements contained within the field) providing a thorough discussion of where the literature is now
  • • 
    reasoned and authoritative conclusions as to where the literature is, or perhaps should be going, and what important questions or gaps still exist in the field
  • • 
    a clear statement about what contribution the review makes to theory, practice and/or research.

High-quality conceptual contributions

Papers that are more overtly conceptual rather than conventional literature reviews can have a radical influence on the field of MOS. Contributions that offer critiques of the existing states of knowledge are important for revitalizing existing debates. In doing so, such theoretical and conceptual papers might compare theories and evidence to provide a (re)conceptualization of an existing field, or perhaps borrowing theoretical ideas from other academic disciplines to challenge current perceptions. For example, Burrell's (1988) paper on the work of Michel Foucault was the catalyst for the emergence of postmodern organizational studies. In their challenge to existing conception of organizational change, Tsoukas and Chia (2002) drew on the work of ‘process philosophers’ to reconceptualize organization as a process of becoming, and change as a normal condition of organizational life rather than points of punctuation within it. Whittington (1996) used the work of Bourdieu (1990) to introduce the role of human practices into the strategic management literature. This helped to propel the strategy process literature into a new area, and there is now significant debate and development within a specific domain of ‘strategy-as-practice’. Critical reviews of the literature may also lead to alternative conceptualizations of current problems and offer new insight into conventional understanding within the field. John Child's (1972) concept of ‘strategic choice’ undermined the dominance of contingency theory by introducing the role of managerial agency. Alternatively, contributions may lie in an attempt to reconcile the existing theoretical confusions and conflicts which typify a particular field. Sarasvathy (2001), for example, attempted to bring greater coherence to the field of entrepreneurship by introducing the concept of effectuation. This concept has had a significant influence on the prior rationalistic and the cognitive bias within the field.

Conceptual papers of this type may be criticized for bias in the selection and interpretation of previous research, or for not fully representing the nuances of prior contributions (Tranfield et al. 2003). However, what such papers require is a holistic interpretation which demands experience as well as the ability to reflect on the efficacy of existing theories and models. In considering preparing a theoretical paper, authors should remember that contributions are most likely to be in opening-up new perspectives on a mature field, by the integration, synthesis and critique of prior research. In other words, papers should still be grounded in a thorough and discursive analysis and review of literature in the field. The challenge for authors wishing to undertake such a project is the need to identify a mature body of work, establish the study boundaries, explain its development with reference to key papers, and provide a real theoretical and conceptual contribution which encourages new research questions. Developing a conceptual paper which reviews, synthesizes and challenges existing theory is a challenging task. When reviewing the field, attention should be paid particularly to the contradictions, competing evidence and emerging insights which challenge or undermine existing understanding within that field. Although there are few (if any) templates for this type of paper, many of the criteria outlined above for standard literature reviews are a useful basis for developing a conceptual paper. That is: they should focus on a discrete field of study; they should identify a puzzle or debate within that field with reference to existing evidence and/or theory; they should analyse that issue and consider how to account for the problem, contradiction or conflict; and they should propose new insights and identify a clear theoretical and conceptual contribution. A word of caution is appropriate here. While we welcome papers that make a conceptual and theoretical contribution, it is not our intention to publish papers containing propositional models of the type more commonly found in Academy of Management Review (AMR).

Developing quality of reviews

Our disappointment with the number desk rejects is mirrored by our concern related to the poor quality of some reviews. A key task for anyone who acts as a journal referee is to help author(s) to improve the quality of their papers by identifying omissions and areas which require further development. At the same time, we acknowledge that it is important to engage referees by ensuring that papers which enter the review process have the potential for publication in IJMR. As pointed out by Treviño (2008) in a recent AMR editorial, many potential referees decline the invitation to review a paper or simply do not respond to the Editor's request to do so. According to DeNisi (2008), 20% of the reviewers cause 80% of the problems for Editors. Perhaps more surprisingly, 20% are ‘all experienced reviewers who have served on Editorial Boards for many years’ (DeNisi 2008, p. 51). Even in the very short tenure of our editorship, we have experienced a number of ‘decliners’ and ‘non-responders’. Treviño goes on to argue that reviewing is a professional responsibility, one which is central to advancement of knowledge in the field of MOS. Furthermore, scholars who undertake reviews for any refereed journal have a responsibility to the broader academic community to actively engage with the papers that they have agreed to referee. Since taking over IJMR, we have certainly seen critical reviews that amount to fewer than 100 words. Such a response is unlikely to provide authors with the basis for a meaningful revision of their work, or even to help them develop their paper for publication elsewhere.

Equally, acting as a journal referee should not be simply a one-way process in which the reviewer's time is absorbed in giving advice to other scholars. Nevertheless, managing reviewers is difficult, because they ‘are contributing their time expertise for virtually no compensation’ (DeNisi 2008, p. 81). DeNisi also makes the point that most scholars ‘learn’ to review during graduate school, when the main aim is to identify all the failings in a particular paper. However, a ‘good’ review helps the Editor provide appropriate feedback to the author with some expectation that the paper can be improved sufficiently to warrant publication (DeNisi 2008). Lepak (2009) provides a thorough description of the importance of good practice in helping both to identify and to develop the potential of papers under review. He argues that, while it is easy to be critical and reject a paper, the art is on spotting potential and helping to nurture that contribution. As pointed out by Hirschauer (2010, p. 72), the publication review process ‘is often seen as an essential element of professional practice in science and the humanities, embodying the principle of distinguishing good research from bad’. We see reviewing as central to the academic labour process in which the reviewers' knowledge is enhanced by engaging with the work of others in their field. At the same time, the reviewer's knowledge helps to eliminate weaknesses and misunderstandings in other scholars' work. We do not have the time or space in this editorial to provide a thorough outline of what we consider to be good reviewing practice. However, those who wish to develop their review standards should consider the advice offered by Lepak (2009), who provides a thorough discussion on many aspects of this important task. Perhaps we shall return to this topic in a future editorial. It is also our intention to provide some advice on the IJMR website to show how a high-quality review can help the authors to develop a manuscript.

Conclusions

  1. Top of page
  2. Introduction
  3. Developing administration and leadership
  4. Developing journal content and quality
  5. Developing journal submissions
  6. Conclusions
  7. References

In this our first editorial, we have set out what we regard as the main issues that we intend to confront during our tenure as Editors of IJMR. With the support of the BAM Council and Wiley-Blackwell, we have already adopted S1M to improve management of the review process. A number of other changes will be instigated over the course of the next few months, with a particular focus on developing the Web content for the Journal and also developing the standards of manuscript and reviewing for the Journal. Ultimately, the quality of the Journal depends on all involved in the process – Editors, reviewers, and authors – contributing their time to developing the Journal's content. We hope that, with the help and engagement of the MOS academic community, we can continue to set a high standard for IJMR.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Introduction
  3. Developing administration and leadership
  4. Developing journal content and quality
  5. Developing journal submissions
  6. Conclusions
  7. References