Why Do Faculty Do Research?
Students (and parents!) often ask why professors conduct research. Many seem to believe that time spent on research means time away from teaching, with the implication that this tradeoff is bad for students. Although it is true that more research generally means less teaching, research is vital for knowledge development.
What I generally tell students when they ask why faculty do research is this:
- All professors teach (although some teach more than others).
- Some professors write textbooks that we use when we teach.
- And some professors conduct research that goes into the textbooks that we use when we teach.
If you take any college textbook, you will undoubtedly find footnotes, endnotes, and references that represent the source of the ideas that are discussed in the textbooks. In many (if not most) cases, these references will be to primary research conducted by faculty at colleges and universities around the world. In fact, some of those references may be to research conducted by your very own professors (and maybe even research that you participated in at some point)!
Thus, as this explanation should make clear, today’s research is vital to building tomorrow’s knowledge. Today’s research fills tomorrow’s textbooks, and that’s how knowledge develops (whether it is marketing, psychology, or physics). And that is the function of a research university: to both create knowledge (through research) and disseminate it (through teaching and publishing).
But How Does Faculty Research Help Me?
Even though students may acknowledge that research is necessary, many wonder whether it has any benefit to them directly. After all, courses at schools where research is not a focus use the same textbooks as the research-focused schools, so everyone gets the same knowledge regardless of where the research is generated.
But having professors who conduct research can have direct benefits to students. Here’s how. First, remember that today’s knowledge is for tomorrow’s textbooks. But you’re learning it today (we hope!). Thus, when your professors conduct research that goes into tomorrow’s textbooks, you get it first (and remember, it can take several years for this new research to be published in journals and new textbooks). That’s how cutting-edge research gets converted into cutting-edge knowledge transfer (a fancy term for learning).
But perhaps you’re not convinced. You may buy the argument that you may learn many things sooner at research-focused universities, but you may ask whether that quicker knowledge has any tangible pay-off? Actually, some research suggests that it does. In research published by J. Scott Armstrong and Tab Sperry (“Business School Prestige: Research versus Teaching,” Interfaces, 24 (2), 13-43, 1994), the authors show that there is actually a very strong correlation between ratings of a school’s prestige and its research impact, and this is true whether the raters are firms, students, or academics. More to the point of direct benefit, Armstrong also provides results showing that the net present value of an MBA degree is highly correlated with research impact of the business school (Armstrong, J. Scott, “The Devil’s Advocate Responds to an MBA Student’s Claim that Research Harms Learning,” Journal of Marketing, 59, 101-106, 1995). In other words, the research impact of a business school increases school prestige and increases value of the degree in dollars (based on earnings of graduates)!
As noted on the Department home page, the UTSA Marketing Department scores very highly in research impact, both in terms of articles published in academic journals and articles written about that research in newspapers and other media outlets.
If you’re interested in the types of research your professors do, go to this website to see a list of recent faculty publications. Or, go the Department Directory, click on individual faculty, and click through to their profiles and personal pages. These sites will often have more detailed information on different research projects.
Finally, if you are interested in any of the faculty’s research, be sure to go up to them and ask them about it. Just as much as conducting research is part of our jobs, so is telling you about it. And if you’re ever interested in participating in research studies, working as a volunteer research assistant, or even getting a Ph.D. and becoming a research academic yourself, be sure to contact me any time.
L. J. Shrum
Professor and Chair
Department of Marketing