guest article by Dwayne D. Gremler

In one of my favorite movies, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, several people pursue attainment of the Holy Grail, a cup that is supposed to have special powers and is designed to provide happiness and eternal youth. One man thought he had found the location of the Holy Grail but hastily selected the wrong cup to drink from in his pursuit of immortality. The consequences of his poor decision were drastic, and instead of living forever the man literally saw his life speed to its end in a matter of seconds. An old knight who observed this commented, “He chose poorly!”

For years I have told my daughters that any choices they make have consequences—some good, and some not so good. As a recipient of the 2014 Christopher Lovelock Career Contributions Award, I have been asked to provide “words of wisdom” to young service research scholars to help them make wise choices when it comes to their research endeavors. So, I offer three recommendations for service scholars who are in the early stage of their academic career.

Be synergistic.

Synergy is defined as “the interaction of elements that, when combined, produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of individual elements or contributions.” As a young service scholar you should strategically consider combining elements (that is, you should be synergistic) in your research-related activities whenever possible. To illustrate, when it comes to…

  • Research partners…select co-authors carefully and strategically by looking for interpersonal compatibility/rapport, complementary skills, and identical (or, at least compatible) motivation.
  • Research projects…select projects carefully. Consider how to best leverage your knowledge of a topic or issue, data you have collected, and research methods you have learned. Rather than venture into completely new areas, build upon knowledge and skills you already have.
  • Research project timelines…select project timelines carefully and strategically. Consider systematically rolling out your research in a sequential fashion…begin with a department brown-bag presentation, then a conference paper (one-page abstract), a conference paper (full paper), a summer research grant, and then a journal submission.
  • Research in the classroom… discuss your research in class and incorporate it into course material when appropriate. You should know this material well, so class preparation should be easier (and quicker) on days when your research is incorporated into the class. And, students will enjoy it if you enjoy it. Also, do not be afraid to use students as subjects/respondents. Or, perhaps, consider using students as data collectors.

Be opportunistic.

Opportunity is defined as “a situation of conditions favorable to the attainment of a goal” and “a favorable, appropriate, or advantageous combination of circumstances.” You should actively look for situations that will help you move your research program forward. Some ways to be opportunistic include:

  • Identify hot topics in the business press, and then position your research to provide insight on such topics.
  • Attend (or organize) seminars/brown bag presentations on campus (or, at conferences). If you attend enough presentations, ideas for research will present themselves to you.
  • Travel (ideally abroad). Invite yourself somewhere. Or, invite someone to visit YOUR university. Pursue a Fulbright scholarship. Networking is a must, particularly early in your career, so look for ways to visit other universities or have scholars from other universities visit you. And, don’t be afraid to invest some of your OWN money in such endeavors. That is, INVEST in your career by traveling.
  • Be assertive in attending conferences. Attend as many conferences as possible, particularly early in your career, and NEVER skip out on conference sessions. Introduce yourself to scholars, even “famous” ones. (Many academics are introverts, and thus will likely NOT approach you.) Service researchers, in particular, tend to be very nice people who are willing to help or work with others.

Be perseverant.

Perseverance is defined as “persistence in a course of action, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” Research projects take time. And energy. And desire. To see a research project through to completion (and publication) you must persevere. The fastest journal publication I have ever had, from coming up with the initial idea until seeing the manuscript in print, was slightly over two years—and that has only happened once. The longest amount of time it took me to get a paper published was ten years, and the average length is probably 4-5 years. Publication is one of several aspects of an academic career that does not happen quickly or easily.   So…

  • Persevere!
  • Persevere!
  • Persevere!

The three recommendations I have offered are intended to help you in developing your research program and getting your work published. May they say of you “He chose wisely!” rather than “He chose poorly!” as you make choices in your academic journey.


Dwayne D. Gremler is 
Professor of Marketing and
Distinguished Teaching Professor at 
Bowling Green State University