Enhancing the Practical Relevance of Research

37 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2016 Last revised: 7 Mar 2016

Date Written: March 6, 2016


This article seeks to encourage scholars to conduct research that is more relevant to the decisions faced by managers and policymakers, and addresses why research relevance matters, what relevance means in terms of a journal article, and how scholars can increase the relevance of their research. I define relevant research papers as those whose research questions address problems found (or potentially found) in practice and whose hypotheses connect independent variables within the control of practitioners to outcomes they care about using logic they view as feasible. I provide several suggestions for how scholars can enhance research relevance, including engaging practitioners in on-campus encounters, at managerial conferences, and at crossover workshops; conducting site visits and practitioner interviews; working as a practitioner; and developing a practitioner advisory team. I describe several ways that scholars can convey relevant research insights to practitioners, including presenting at practitioner conferences, writing for practitioners in traditional crossover journals and in shorter pieces like op-eds and blogs, and attracting the interest of those who write columns, blogs, and articles about research for practitioners. I conclude by describing a few ways that academic institutions can encourage more relevant research, focusing on journals, professional societies, and doctoral programs.

Keywords: research questions, relevance, rigor, communication, practice-based research

Suggested Citation

Toffel, Michael W., Enhancing the Practical Relevance of Research (March 6, 2016). Production and Operations Management, Forthcoming, Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 16-082, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2720278 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2720278

Michael W. Toffel (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617.384.8043 (Phone)

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