Once again that time of the year when students across the world need to find a marketing dissertation topic is looming. I recently delivered a guest lecture at Henley Business School about the future of marketing, and many of the questions were related to finding good and relevant marketing topics. If you have followed the previous post about it, I published a list of ideas a year ago in this post. Now in this revised version of the post, here are a few ideas and places where you can find good research topics in the fields of marketing:
The Marketing Science Institute (MSI) Research priorities
The MSI publishes every two years a set of research priorities for marketing scholars. In its most recent edition covering 2020-2022 they have identified six major themes: (1) delivering customer value, (2) the evolving landscape of martech and advertising, (3), tools for capturing information to fuel growth, (4) the rise of omnichannel promotion and distribution, (5) organising for marketing agility, and (6) innovation, new product development, and commercialisation. In each of these themes they have listed a number of questions that they considered marketing academics should focus on in answering. You can find the full report here.
Literature reviews usually summarise an area of knowledge, and the ultimate goal of most reviews is to identify potential research gaps. This year students are lucky, as many well-ranked journals have had a series of special issues around literature reviews. For instance, my co-authors and I recently published a literature review looking at the intersection of AI, consumer research, psychology and marketing. In our review, we identified the main themes, and theories that have been used in these fields, as well as possible future research avenues. The Journal of Business Research recently published a Special Issue on literature reviews in a wide range of topics, including loyalty programmes, the implications on marketing standardisation vs adaptation, customer journeys, artificial intelligence in marketing, interactive digital marketing, and social media marketing. All of these reviews usually examine a substantial body of literature and help you identify some of the research gaps in each of these areas. You can go have a look at this special issue here.
Call for papers
Journals in all areas of knowledge run Special Issues in a wide range of topics. My recommendation is that you look at the 3* and 4* journals in the field of marketing. You can download the latest ABS list 2021 (now rebranded Academic Journal Guide) here. For instance, you can find here some of the calls for papers that the Journal of Marketing has published for some of their conferences and special issues. Each of the calls for papers will have a set of research questions that experts in the field have considered to be relevant. Another useful resource is a Facebook group where calls for papers in the field of marketing are regularly shared.
Once you have found a research question – what next?
In order to ensure a strong research proposal (and a strong dissertation), it is crucial that you have an idea of the potential theoretical contributions of your study. In order to do so, you will need to frame your study within a theoretical lens. Many students struggle to understand what a theory is, and I wrote a short article about it here. You might end up changing the theoretical lens as you read more, or refining where the contribution in your initial theory is. If you’re doing exploratory research, you might find the link to your theoretical contribution only after you have collected and analysed your data. However, regardless of your approach, it is important that you demonstrate that you are engaging with the existing theories and that you have a broad idea (for your proposal) of where your contribution is. It is important to distinguish between theoretical contribution and contextual one. Ofter times students build proposals where only the context is new (e.g. no one else has done research on TitkTok, or no one has compared India vs Thailand in terms of consumer attitudes towards influencer marketing). These are contextual gaps, and even though they are important, you must spend time thinking more about the theoretical gap as well.
Just like in my previous post about marketing dissertation topics, I would also suggest that you consider working in a context where you would like to work in the future after you have finished your dissertation. Interested in fintech or fashion marketing? Well, try to make sure that you bring that element as part of the context of your dissertation.
I hope you found this post useful, and happy researching and writing your marketing dissertation. And remember: a good dissertation is a done dissertation. A great dissertation is a published dissertation. A perfect dissertation is neither.