For business and society researchers, publishing in more general management journals is often challenging, but the rewards can be great. Here CBOS Director Andrew Crane outlines some of the key takeaways from a panel of editors from general management journals on this very topic. All editors were involved in a recent PRME UK & Ireland business and society research development workshop hosted at the University of Bath.
- Business and society research is in demand.
General management journals, as well as mainstream journals in marketing, accounting and other sub-fields, want to publish business and society research. There used to be concern among many scholars in the field that our work was not really welcome at the more mainstream journals. If that were ever the case, it certainly is not anymore. The door is wide open. Most of the top journals want research that tackles important social and environmental issues, and that offers new thinking and new perspectives on these issues. Papers on corporate social responsibility and other business and society issues tend to get prizes, drive more downloads, and get twice as many citations as other papers in general management journals. So now is not the time to be fearful or hold back. Your work is in high demand.
- You can have a bigger and wider impact publishing in general management journals.
If you are doing business and society research, you probably think it is pretty important stuff – whether climate change, inequality, biodiversity, or modern slavery, your research is likely tackling some big societal challenges. Publishing this kind of work in general management journals is likely to provide a great platform for generating impact, both in the academic community and beyond. Most top mainstream journals have a large readership and high impact factors meaning that more researchers will likely read and cite your work. And many also have dedicated resources for getting word out beyond academia, such as into the press and social media. So, while there may be some compromises and extra work involved in getting your work into these outlets, the rewards in terms of audience and impact can often be greater.
- You need to join a conversation in the journal.
The one piece of advice almost all journal editors give is to make sure you write your paper so that it is clear what conversation it is joining and what you are contributing to that conversation. When you are submitting to a general management journal, it is especially important to make clear that this is a conversation that is already underway in the journal, or in other similar journals in the field. Don’t try and come out of nowhere with your innovative new idea – show how it connects to what has already been discussed in these journals; your reference list is a key signaller here. This does not have to be a chore – choose journals you enjoy reading, where you would love to get published because it publishes research that matters to you, not just because someone told you to submit there or it is on a list of A journals. Show interest in the journal with what (and how) you reference and the conversations you point to as important. And if there are Associate Editors that you would like to have handling your paper, go ahead and request them.
- You should consider pitching your contribution beyond business and society
When you are writing about CSR or sustainable business you want to contribute to the CSR or sustainable business literature, right? Now that will certainly work in specialist business and society journals, but if you are targeting more mainstream journals, you might want to broaden your scope and contribute beyond your own subfield. General journals have a general management readership and if you want to access this larger more diverse readership with your important work, you need to consider how you can make your research relevant for them. Showing how your research helps scholars outside business and society address some of their own theoretical gaps or challenges can be great way of bolstering your fit with the journal and connecting with a mainstream audience.
- Think about your hook – is it theory or phenomenon, or both?
Journal editors and reviewers will be thinking, what is new, interesting, or important about this research for management? For researchers in business and society, the hook here is often the phenomenon – e.g. we know climate change is important and here is some research that helps us address that problem better. But in general management journals, the expectation is often more that the theory – and your theoretical contribution – should take precedence. This is not always the case and leading with your phenomenon can certainly get results, but it is definitely a higher risk strategy. So the key message here is to do your homework on the journal and be sure to read the recent issues and advance online articles to get a sense of which way the wind is blowing at your target journal. Whichever way you go though with setting the hook, be sure to show in your paper how your phenomenon helps rethink existing theory and develop new conceptual insight. For better or worse, theoretical contribution – not solutions to practical problems – is currently what still counts most when publishing in top general management journals. Don’t ignore the practical implications though – include them in the paper and if it is important to you be sure to talk and write about them in other ways such as through the media, blogs, and practitioner and public events.
- Be creative about format
Many general management journals have a range of different types of contributions in addition to regular journal articles, including essays, commentaries, dialogues, counterpoints, and others. If you find that your work goes against the mainstream, these can be a great way to get your ideas out there and fire up a debate. Alternative formats like these provide a great way for business and society scholars to nudge ideas and provide alternative perspectives. Usually, you have to contact one of the editorial team first to pitch your idea to them. But don’t be shy. Remember #1: your work is in demand.