I’m neither left nor right – I just want to know.

As far as academic disciplines go, marketing seems to have a rather stark divide between academics who totally believe that everything serious must be quantifiable – and those that believe it’s best to stick to qualitative data. At least that seems to be my impression after a few years “in the business” – and having just again had the pleasure of having a colleague try to pin me down as a “left brainer (quant)” or a “right brainer (qual)”… Being middle of the road – and “just curious” wasn’t a good enough answer it appeared. Of course, the latter part of the discussion inevitably turned to the well trodden (aka frequently used argument): “Well, if you even try to get anything qualitative published, don’t waste your time”. Luckily I remembered that at least for the Journal of Advertising (which in my field is at least the most “reputable” journal) the numbers simply don’t stack up – thanks to a presentation at the ICORIA conference. I don’t quite remember the numbers (left fail?), but I seem to remember that when considering submissions to the journal, the acceptance rate was actually slightly higher for qual then quant studies – the problem was basically that there were relatively few qual studies being submitted. Of course, this might be different depending on the journal, but I guess it’s a good start.
I have to admit, that I’m also a bit suspicious of the “are you a x or y” type categorisation. This really has two reasons:
Firstly, and we do seem to teach this to students somewhere in research methods 1, neither qual nor quants has all the answers. Rather, the powerful answers emerge when, where applicable, you bring them together.
Secondly, I think at least a few academics have an entrenched opinion not so much because one method is in someway  more superior to the other, but rather they have learned one way… and now simply do the same thing to all and everything. I can see the absolute attraction of this: I recently did my first serious meta-analysis. When looking for examples, I noticed a colleague who seems to have established almost the entire career doing pretty little else. Now, I’m not saying metas are an easy thing to do, but let’s face it, once you have all the scripts, formulas and conversions in place, it is reasonably easy to throw the method at just about anything that comes along. Good choice? Probably not in all cases.
So, where does that leave us? Well, I can see the attraction of simply replicating the methodology over and over again – and making a career out of it (and possibly becoming an expert in the method). But I wonder what happened to the good old virtue of being an academic for the pursuit of knowledge? REF and pressure to publish aside, should we not first and formost be seeking appropriate answers to questions we are interested in (and maybe a few others, too)? And if we are called Lecturer/Senior Lecturer/Prof in Marketing, is it really a good idea to be interested more in a method than in knowing more about (different or aspects of) Marketing? It seems to me if one becomes an expert in one method, a more suitable title might be X/Y/Z of that method… or is that view just simply too old fashioned?

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