WOW visitors, Professors Elizabeth George and Raja Chattopadhyay (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) answered the big questions — five in fact — about making an impact during a higher degree research student (HDR) presentation on Tuesday (12 August).

Focusing their discussions on how one’s research can impact academic literature, Elizabeth and Raja’s presentation particularly concerned the manner in which original research, and reviews and replications of existing research, can pack a punch! Here they contend that new contributions to the theory and/ or practice of a field tends to have the most impact. But what does this look like? Consider, suggests Elizabeth, whether the research generalises, works only in set situations, or can be applied to a variety of contexts, such as other countries?

Professors Raja Chattopadhyay, Elizabeth George, and WOW Deputy Director, Peter Jordan

Professors Raja Chattopadhyay, Elizabeth George, and WOW Deputy Director, Peter Jordan

But first, the audience was asked to consider what the benchmark for impact is. Whilst well cited research is a leading driver in academia, the research’s influence on and use by practitioners and educators — that is, through press coverage, a presence in end-user publications and textbooks, and its operationalisation in classrooms and organisations – is paramount.

How then do you make people care about the research? Answering this revolves around the design of your research question, says Raja, and whether it is interesting and innovative:

“Resolving controversies in a field,…pulling together fragmented areas [of research],…examining un- or under researched phenomena [or]…looking at well researched [ones] through a new lens, challenging firmly held assumptions, or introducing new methods/ instruments” are several options.

“All of these involve a lot of work though”, Elizabeth reminds us. “Understand what you’re coming up against. Thoroughly researching the state of the issue/ field you’re addressing [requires] a lot of reading…to understand why e.g. there is no theory in an area.”

And extensive reading is a part of a third consideration for making an impact — that is, how a systematic process can help examine the research question.

“[As well as reading up on] your topic in journals of your field, seek out information from related fields, the business press;… [even] the latest discoveries in science” may be relevant, says Professor Chattopadhyay. Your personal experiences and interactions with students/ target readers is useful also, adds Elizabeth.

Engaging the research’s audience can also be dependent on writing style. Does your paper have a hook? Have you captured all the interesting bits in the abstract? If you haven’t got the reader’s attention, says Raja, in first few pages, you’ve lost them. And while including the ‘right’ amount of detail causes angst for most, coherently representing the overarching theory or model of the research can go a long way in grabbing their attention.

In closing, Professors George and Chattopadhyay spoke of the esteemed (business-discipline) publication outlets to target, the most effective way to process and respond to journal editorial board reviews, and offered up some sage advice about the realities of academic writing:

“Use good role models, get and act on feedback, and remember, a good paper can take 2-3 years (and more) to mature to a first round [journal] submission – premature submissions will (probably) be rejected.”

Contact the Centre for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation from this seminar.