Journal articles are foundation of a good research paper but not for the reason I once thought. In my flawed world view I had assumed that journal articles would be more current than books. After all, books were normally more voluminous and presumably took more time to write. There was also the time involved in getting the book to print.
At a recent AMA conference I was shown a significantly different picture. A panel of journal editors was “walking us” through the process of getting published in their journals. All of the articles submitted to these journals were peer reviewed. This means that, once submitted, they were sent out to scholars with an expertise in the subject area of that article. The reviewers would then recommend either that the article be accepted, accepted subject to revision, or rejected.
According to this group of journal editors, articles will invariably require revisions. That can take quite some time and so we are looking at a significant lag time, possibly years, between initial submission and acceptance. The thing that surprised me most was that the potential time between acceptance and publication could also be a couple of years. So, the journal articles that I had been thinking represented the most current and up to date research in the field, might turn out not to represent the most current thinking.
I suppose this shouldn’t have been a toal surprise. After all, many journals document the time frame in the title heading of the article. Sitting in front of me, on my desk, is a 2001 article in the Journal of Business Research by Yoo and Donthu. Right under the author information is the following:
Received 1 january 1997; received in revised form 1 July 1999; accepted 6 August 1999
So here we have an article that, after whatever time it took to research , perform the study, and write, wasn’t published for an additional 4 years. Books are starting to look better and better.
Of course, the primary advantage of journal articles is the peer review itself. This review provides subsequent researchers with the security of knowing that these articles have been thoroughly vetted by respected members of the community. As for the lag time, the editors on the panel assured us that, whether in print or online, all the journals were working on decreasing the amount of time lapsed between acceptance and publication.