Edited by Timothy Clark, Mike Wright and David J. Ketchen Jr.
Chapter 14: The reviewers don’t like my sample! What can I do?
Let me start with the caveat that most of what I write is macro empirical research. While my examples will draw from strategy articles, the concepts are applicable to other management specialties, and other disciplines as well. I have served on a wide variety of editorial boards, including those with both a generalist (e.g., Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Management, and Journal of Management Studies) and a specialist (e.g, Organizational Research Methods and Strategic Management Journal) focus, as well as those with interdisciplinary (e.g., Corporate Governance: An International Review) and international (Management and Organization Review) emphases. And, given my background, the vast majority of papers that I review are empirical. Regardless of the focus, one question consistently surfaces when I read a new manuscript: “If I were to design a study to test these research questions, is this the ideal sample?” As the answer is most often “No,” the second question is whether the sample is adequate. In some cases, the answer is still “No,” other times it is the grudging acceptance of an imperfect, yet workable sample. In the majority of cases, though, the answer is “hard to tell,” as authors may not provide sufficient information about the sampling process or characteristics of the data. Depending on the severity of the reviewer’s concerns, sampling issues can be a “fatal flaw” that triggers a rejection, or enough of a problem to render an entire Results and Discussion section moot.
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