You are on page 1of 12

Best Journals versus Best Fit Journals: A Strategic Orientation to Research

Dr Stephen Dann, ANU

This paper is proposing a heresy of sorts – perhaps marketing should practice what it
teaches, and develop journal ranks that meet the needs of the organisation, its
stakeholders, and which are based on segmenting the journal output market. This process
may even create, communicate and deliver value for the institution and our government
and industry stakeholders. What follows is a simple model of heresy that permits the
research goals of the university, the strengths of the researchers, and the need to enhance
marketing thought within the marketing academy to determine the relative match
between research output and ideal publication medium. The author full expects this
notion of an alternative to the JCR/JM/JMR Billboard Top 40 will go down like the
Titanic, but sometimes, it's worth shouting "Iceberg ahead" in hopes of changing the
course (and destiny) of the ship.

O'Connor and Moodie (2006) remind us that once again, the higher education sector in
Australia is under criticism from its political masters - this time over the lack of
diversification between the universities. Under the current minister's vision for higher
education, universities are meant to diversify their portfolios, concentrate on their
strengths, and cede ground to rival institutions in the name of sector wide reform. In the
pursuit of this goal, most university systems, schools and departments are rushing
towards the paradoxical goal of diversifying to the same tune. Across the Australian
marketing academy, schools, departments and professors all acknowledge the need for
segmentation, positioning, diversification and the pursuit of publication in the same top
ten journals. If irony still had meaning in the post-modern world of academia, Alanis
Morrissette would sing the praises of this strategy. The problem, in part, is the pursuit of
league table style metrics that provide evidence of "best" rather than "best fit".
Diversification requires universities to focus on their strengths, but if each university uses
the same measures to determine those "strengths", then the rigid frameworks of "best
journals" and "best conferences" will see best-fit modified to match the "best journals".
In other words, diversification will result in the uniform pursuit of the same goals, with
everyone citing the same strengths to see themselves competitive on the same scorecard.
Rewarding quality by assessing it against a rigid criteria of "best" will simply result in
more of the same outcomes - rejection slips from the same "top tier" journals.

The Standardised Journal Ranking Schema
Journal ranking schema are old news in the business academic sector, with the first
studies of journal quality appearing in 1974, and continuing unabated through to the
current paper (Koojaroenprasit et al, 1998, Polonsky and Whitelaw, 2006). To quote
Polonsky and Whitelaw (2005): …with Hawes and Keillor (2002) identifying that
between 1980 and 2001 there were at least 16 journal ranking studies in marketing
published in academic journals and conferences. Since 2002 there have been additional
ranking studies, including; Baumgartner and Pieters (2003), Theoharakis and Hirst
(2002), Mort et al. (2004) and Polonsky and Whitelaw (2004). It appears that ranking
journals may in fact be a predisposition within business faculties in general (Armstrong
and Sperry 1994, Van Fleet et al. 2000). Twenty two years, twenty journal ranking
systems exist in the published field, with a few more proprietary research ranks existing
within different universities around the globe. As Polonsky and Whitelaw (2005) note,
once the reader looks outside of the top three or five journals, the inconsistency of these
lists stand as a tribute to "one size fits nobody" production orientations. Even within the
quality index industry there is a mute acceptance of one-dimensional measures of “best”,
based on the respondent's perception of "quality" (Baumgarter and Pieters, 2003). Would
the academic who endorses this list for funding back the same single item measure from a
student project? For most aspect of the marketing disciplines, the use of a one-
dimensional scale of "best" is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the
discipline and the practice of the industry (Corfman, 1991). Does the systematic
avoidance of accepted methodology maintain the relevance of the discipline? One would
think not, unless the methodological two-step assists in the creation of "quality index" for
rating publication outputs. For marketing, an important question needs to be considered
– does a single item list of “best” journals match the philosophy of the discipline?
Should the notion of market orientation, market segmentation, positioning and an
emphasis on not being “everything to everyone” be something we teach but not practice?
The author contends that this question of disciplinary relevance is often overlooked in
order to mask the fundamental clash between what marketing preaches and what
marketing does with league tables of journal rankings.

Model for Assessing Research Output / Research Agenda fit
Research output is assumed to have two core components - the business strategy
component which represents the organisational research goals of the University, and the
goal of developing knowledge within a specific discipline. Hawes and Keillor (2002 in
Polonsky and Whitelaw (2005) recommend that the using the institutional mission
statements in the ranking of marketing journals. This view is also supported by the
AACSB (2006) who specify that intellectual contributions, measured in part by peer
reviewed journal articles, should be consistent with the school’s mission and strategic
management processes. Therefore, pursuit of disciplinary research goals or
organisational research goals gives rise to the 2x2 matrix of discipline/university agenda
alignment of the research Ffigure 1). These four areas are defined in the practical context
for the development of a research output ranking structure as :

Figure 1. Discipline and University Research Goals
• Quadrant 1: Academy driven research which
Academy Marketing Unit encourages the development of the marketing
Driven Research
Research Agenda
(Tier 1) (Tier 3) discipline through the engagement in relevant
marketing academies
Non aligned
Objectives • Quadrant 2: the strategic research goals of the
(Tier 4
(Tier 2)
host institution
University Research Goals
• Quadrant 3: the pursuit of a coherent research
agenda for the marketing department school or group
• Quadrant 4: Independent research output which is not aligned to the above objectives
Two key assumptions underpin the entire process of journal research priority setting.
First, research will be treated as a strategic undertaking, and organisational research
outputs can be treated as products to be offered to a market of publication outlets.
Second, the paper assumes that journals can be treated as consumers of research output,
with each journal having research preferences, varying levels of demand for research
products. For example, a university with a research centre in retailing is likely to
generate research products of interest for retailing journals such as Journal of Retailing
and Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. Similarly, the Journal of Consumer
Behaviour is not likely to be looking for a research output product on business to
business research. Treating journals as consumers of research also allows for researchers
to target their research output products where they have a strong match between market
need (e.g. journal coverage) and research strength (topic of the paper).

The preliminary sample of marketing journals was selected from the University of
Queensland Business School (UQBS) List 2003, and confirmed by the University of
Auckland List (2003). Although up to 120 journals have been identified as appropriate
outputs for marketing research, the preliminary Quadrant Ranking schema was restricted
to the 57 journals previously identified in these two papersTwo additional lists of
research quality ranks were used to assist the quadrant development, Polonsky and
Whitelaw (2006) paper (P&W List) which ranked 65 different journals according to five
different criteria, and the Mort et al (2003) paper which ranked 72 different journals.
These two lists were selected to reflect US (Polonsky and Whitelaw, 2006) and
Australian (Mort et al 2003) perceptions of journal quality.

Quadrant 1: Developing the discipline of marketing
To ask a marketing academic what they do for a living is to invite the response “I’m a
marketer”. The membership of the academy of marketing is a universal and transferable
trait, unbound to specific nations or employers. Consequently, and in recognition of the
global nature of the discipline, the first quadrant priority for marketing journals is the
pursuit of the enhancement and development of the academy of marketing. Quadrant 1
consists of a list of the journals published by the respective academies of marketing
across the major geographic areas, e.g. Australasia, Europe and America. Members of an
academy should be rewarded for supporting the development and enhancement of their
academy specific journals as a means of recognising the contribution to and support of
the development of the discipline. Publication in these journals is recognised as
contributing to the broader development of the discipline by disseminating research to the
academy body, and into the community through the outreach of the academy.
Researchers should be encouraged to contribute to the development of their local
academy as a priority, and should also be encouraged to contribute to other academy
journals where appropriate. (Appendix 1)

Quadrant 2: Addressing Institutional Research Goals
The second quadrant of journals is based on providing a framework to encourage
academics to pursue the research interest of the university in conjunction with the
development of their relevant academies. For example, an institution may elect to focus
on developing Australian research, and advancing knowledge of Australian research.
Consequently, the Quadrant 2 journals would be selected on the basis of their track
record in the publication of Australian research and Australian researchers. In contrast, a
university with a priority in econometric theory and econometric modelling would select
journals which represented the best track record of publishing econometric papers.
Quadrant 2 level journals are selected by matching the research strength of the
organisation against the market demand for the research output product.

Quadrant 3: School, Department and College level research objectives
Quadrant 3 journals are the disciplinary and sub-disciplinary specific journals which are
representative of the peak quality outlets for a specific area or specific research
concentration in marketing. Inclusion in this list is based on the match between the
journal’s publication objectives and the marketing group’s research agenda.

Determining a Research Agenda
Development of a research agenda of is based on the staff member’s self reported
identification of their areas of research specialisations conducted using a list of track
streams from the Australia and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference. Each the
respondent identifies the track streams closest to their PhD topic, primary research area
and second research areas. These research clusters are matched against the “areas of
research interest” identified in Polonsky and Whitelaw’s (2006) journal ranking paper
which incorporated an examination of the research interests of the US marketing
community. Table 2 features a sample research agenda list

Table 1. Developing a Research Agenda
Sum Polonsky & Whitelaw (2006) ANZMAC Track Areas
Corporate Responsibility, Social Issues and Social Responsibility Marketing and
12 Marketing & Society Society Non profit marketing Political Marketing Social Marketing
Entrepreneurship, Firms in Networks, Marketing Strategy, New Product
11 Marketing Strategy Development, Supply Chain Management, Financial & Value-Based Marketing
10 Marketing Communications Advertising / Marketing Communication / IMC, Branding

Journals are selected for the research agenda quadrant based on the number of articles
containing the relevant research keyword, and the stated research goal of the journal. For
example, the Journal of Public Policy and Management has a strong fit with the goals,
whilst the Journal of Retailing has a weak fit with the research agenda. Consequently,
although the Journal of Retailing has a high individual rank score in the Polonsky and
Whitelaw (2006) and Mort et al (2003) league tables, it would not be an appropriate
priority target for this research agenda.

Quadrant 4: Independent research output
Good scholars can be expected to publish in these journals, and journals of this level are
equal in quality to those in Quadrant 3. These are quality journals, and cover a broad
range of fields, but they are not aligned to the research agendas demonstrated above.
Inclusion in quadrant 4 is not a criticism of the quality of the journal, and as such, should
not be seen as a threat to the legitimacy of external rankings of the journal. As such, it is
a recognition that it is possible for a high quality research outlet to not be relevant to the
research agenda of an institution. In a commercial marketing context, objectively
lucrative markets are often ignored by organisations who lack organisational strengths to
meet the needs of these markets. Similarly, if the research institution does not have a
strength in the area of specialisation of a high quality journal, strategic marketing
management theory would suggest not targeting this research output market. The
existence of the fourth quadrant as a catch-all for peer reviewed journals outside of the
research agendas of the organisation still allows for academic freedom to pursue research
in fields of personal interest.

Limits of the Method
All existing measures of journal quality used in this paper, either as a multiple quadrant
structure or a single league table were found to contain reference to the Journal of
Market-Focused Management which ceased publication in January 2003. In several
instances, this defunct journal was deemed to be a higher quality research publication
outlet than active journals. Given the Journal was discontinued in Wednesday, January
01, 2003, it is understandable that the Mort et al (2003) paper, based on research
presented at the December 2002 ANZMAC conference would not have had the
opportunity to correct the ranking for their journals. However, subsequent quality lists,
such as University of Auckland (September, 2003) and Polonsky and Whitelaw (2006)
have included the defunct journal in the list. It would be an article of a certain quality
that could be published in a journal that ceased trading nearly four years prior to this
paper’s publication. A second limitation of the process arises in the process used for
determining the research agenda journal list. There is a prospect of false positive/false
negative hits from the keyword assessment of each journal. In testing the method, the
keyword “Australia” was used as a proxy measure for the alignment of the journal with a
pro-Australian research agenda. Steps were taken to ensure that where possible, obvious
false positives were removed, for example, where the full bibliographic details of a
reference included the keyword but the article contained no reference to Australian
content or was not by an Australian author. Although this process was followed with
reasonable care, time constraints on the initial study did not permit the grading of each
positive keyword match article on a scale of relevance to the research agenda. Further
research and development of a agenda relevance measure could be used to enhance this
framework, and sharing of research agenda grading of journals would be able to reduce
bias inherent in the reliance on single source interpretation.

In what will be a disappointment for many readers, this paper does not feature a full
ranking index. Simply put, for the paper that argues for multidimensional priority
indexes based on organisational objectives and research priorities, presenting a one-
dimensional index would be to miss the point of the paper entirely. Only the primary
quadrant of academy journals should be consistent between organisations that ostensibly
pursue differentiated research agendas. It's time for Australian universities to prioritise
research outputs based on their own goals and agendas, and for business schools to walk
the talk of segmentation, positioning and targeting. Practicing what we preach is a quality
outcome for research, and one that is far more likely to make an impact than blind
adherence to antiquated league table score cards.
AACSB. (2006). Eligibility procedures and accreditation standards for business
accreditation, AACSB International.

Armstrong, J.S. (1994) “Business School Prestige – Research versus Teaching,”
Interfaces 24(2): 13-42.

Baumgartner, H, and Pieters, R.. (2003). The structural influence of marketing journals:
A citation analysis of the discipline and it subareas over time. Journal of Marketing 67
(1): 123-139.

Corfman, K (1991) “Perceptions of Relative Influence: Formation and Measurement,”
Journal of Marketing Research, 28(2): 125-136.

Easton, G. and Easton, D.M.. (2003). Marketing journals and the research assessment
exercise, Journal of Marketing Management 19 (1-2): 5-24.

Hawes, J. M., and Keillor, B. (2002). Assessing marketing journals: a mission-based
approach. Journal of the Academy of Business Education 3 (2): 70-86.

Journal of Market-Focused Management,

Koojaroenprasit, N, Weinstein, A, Johnson, W. C. and Remington, D. O. (1998)
“Marketing Journal Rankings Revisited: Research Findings and Academic Implications”,
Marketing Education Review, 8(1), 95-102.
Mort, G, McColl-Kennedy, J, Kiel, G. 2002. Senior Faculty Perceptions of the Quality of
Marketing Journals: An Australian and New Zealand Perspective. ANZMAC 2002
Conference Proceedings, 2431-2438.

Mort, G. S., McColl-Kennedy, J. R., Kiel, G., and Soutar, G. N. (2004). Australian and
New Zealand senior academics’ perceptions of marketing journals Australasian
Marketing Journal 12 (2): 51-61.

O'Connor, I and Moodie, G. (2006) "Unis can't diversify to a formula" The Australian -
Higher Education Supplement, June 21, 2006 [Accessed online,20867,19534243-12332,00.html June 30,

Polonsky, M J and Whitelaw, P. (2004). Exploring multi-dimensional perceptual ranking
of marketing journals by North American academics. 2004 Summer American Marketing
Association Educators Conference Summer: 13-20.

Polonsky, M, and Whitelaw, P. What Are We Measuring When We Evaluate Journals?,
Journal of Marketing Education.2005; 27: 189-201

Polonsky, M, and Whitelaw, P. (2006) “A Multi-Dimensional Examination of Marketing
Journal Rankings by North American Academics” Marketing Education Review,

Theoharakis, V, and Hirst A. (2002). Perceptual differences of marketing journals: a
worldwide perspective. Marketing Letters 13 (4): 398-402.

University Of Auckland (2003) Department of Marketing, Guideline To Assessing
Journals And Books, University Of Auckland – internal document

University of Queensland Business School (UQBS) List 2003– internal document
Van Fleet, David D., McWilliams, A., and Siegel, D. S.. (2000). A theoretical and
empirical analysis of journal rankings: the case of formal lists. Journal of Management
26 (5): 839-861.
Appendix 1

Table 1. Quadrant 1 Journals

UQ UA P&W Mort
Journal title Quadrant Quadrant List List

Academy of Marketing Science Review 3 n/a 20 n/a
Australasian Marketing Journal 3 2 57 34
International Journal of Research in Marketing 2 1 12 8
Journal of International Marketing 2 2 22 23
Journal of Marketing 1 1 1 2
Journal of Marketing Management 3 2 35 16
Journal of Marketing Research 1 1 2 3
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 2 2 7 13
Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 1 1 6 4