Urging for breakthrough research: A reflection on the 20th Graduate Conference
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The 20th Annual Graduate Education & Graduate Student Research Conference in Hospitality and Tourism (also known as Graduate Conference) has drawn a conclusion. Once again, it was a great and successful academic event, which showcased a total of 145 stand-up presentations and 186 poster presentations over a three-day period.
I was pleased to see many studies reported in-depth analyses and addressed meaningful research questions, especially when this was the event that highlighted student research.
If I had to "look for bones in an egg," however, I would like to see more breakthrough findings that wowed me and other audience members. In addition, I would like to see a bigger group of industry partners in the conference. When I say "breakthrough findings," I am referring to revolutions, reforms, innovative ideas, significant improvements or something unconventional but with big impact to the industry.
In fact, I had the same impression of many other academic conferences (mainly in social science). Every time, I was wondering if academic research had produced sufficient breakthrough findings for our industry partners.
Meanwhile, have our industry partners provided adequate support to academic programs in research and product development? If both parties have not done enough, what else can we do to improve the relationship?
Honestly, I wish I were able to provide some good solutions here, but regardless, this topic deserves our immediate attention. Therefore, I am raising a few specific questions for further considerations. I am hoping these specific questions will spark additional discussion to help both parties tackle the problem.
For example, are academic researchers trapping themselves in producing "meaningful" research?
Before I began my academic career, I went through years of graduate education in the U.S., in which I was trained to follow the great minds in conducting rigorous research and writing academic articles for publications. I am aware of the differences between deductive and inductive research, and I believe both approaches can make significant contributions to the theories and practices.
Generally speaking, researchers using a deductive approach will frame their research questions or hypotheses from a theory or a series of theories. Then, they will collect empirical data for analyses (usually quantitative in nature). The results may extend our knowledge of a topic by either accepting or rejecting the hypotheses.
Inductive research often starts from a researcher's consistent observations of a phenomenon or his/her intuitions. Then, it leads to data collection and data analyses (usually qualitative in nature). The findings have the possibility of generating "themes" or developing new theories.
Marriott International, for example, hires researchers to conduct studies on product development. According to the CNBC report below, a Marriott researcher was paid to sit in the lobby to do observations.
I have no doubt he also conducted a lot of quantitative analyses, but I wonder if he must follow the deductive approach when reporting his research findings or making recommendations to the management. If not, then how come deductive research seems to be more accepted in academia? Also, why Marriott does not want to use academic research in product development?
I also wonder where is the place for interdisciplinary research in hospitality and tourism (e.g., working with other scholars in architecture, interior design, fine arts and civil engineering). If there is a place, then what is the standard for a rigorous interdisciplinary research? Can we keep our minds open when evaluating the impact of interdisciplinary research?
Do I have too many questions? Would you be able to provide some possible solutions? Any thoughts are welcome.
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