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The Theory-Setting-Testable Hypothesis Model: A Framework to Assist Doctoral Students in Linking Theory and Empirical Research

John E. Swan and Warren S. Martin

An important goal of doctoral education in marketing is to prepare students to plan and conduct original research, which requires skills in integrating philosophy of science concepts concerning theory, the application of empirical research methods, and understanding a substantive topic. Often these skills are taught in separate courses. The authors address this problem by proposing a theory-setting-testable hypothesis model as an aidfor doctoral students. They discuss the three-step process of developing theoretically linked hypotheses and its utilization in a philosophy of science seminar.

A fundamental goal of doctoral training in marketing is to prepare students to undertake original research that makes a contribution to marketing knowledge, that is, advancing theoretical understanding of phenomena that are within the domain of marketing. The student must develop an understanding of both marketing theory and how theory can be tested in an empirical study. Toward that end, marketing education at the doctoral level often includes seminars in research methods, philosophy of science, and substantive topics. However, it has been our experience that doctoral students find it difficult to integrate "research meth- ods" and "philosophy of science" perspectives and develop a theoretically grounded research proposal to investigate a substantive topic. Our purpose is to present a framework that we have used successfully to help doctoral students leam how to (1) tie theory to empirical research and (2) identify opportunities for further research. In addition, some of the problems that our framework treats can be found in recently published research, so the framework may be of value to some experienced researchers as a reminder of points to cover.

This article covers (1) the problem of gaining skills in integrating theory, method, and research topics; (2) a three- step model; and (3) how the model has been incorporated in a doctoral seminar. It is important to note that our model draws from the realist approach to the philosophy of science (Hunt 1991). However, the seminar in which the model is employed does provide an introduction to qualitative/ethno- graphic research.

JOHN E. SWAN is a Professor of Marketing and Health Services Administration, and WARREN S. MARTIN is a Professor of Marketing, Department of Marketing, The University of Alabama at Birmingham. The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of two anonymous reviewers, the section editor, and Raymond W. LaForge for their insightful and constructive comments on an ear- lier version of this article.

Roots of the Problem: The Integration Gap

The problem experienced by doctoral students in bridging theory, a substantive topic, and empirical research is rooted in the difficult task of achieving congruence between theo- ry, topic, and method. Essentially, the doctoral student faces the task of finding a research topic that integrates three essential components: (1) an empirical phenomena, such as salesperson turnover; (2) a theoretical explanation of the phenomena; and (3) some hypotheses derived from the the- oretical material that can be tested empirically. Each of the three components just mentioned are treated extensively in articles and text material, but usually not in an integrated fashion or in a form that is easy for doctoral students to understand. The integration gap must be closed by market- ing educators. However, the literature on marketing educa- tion does not offer a treatment of how the integration gap can be closed. The main purpose of this article is to present a theory-setting-testable hypothesis (abbreviated as theory- setting-test) model for closing the gap and providing mar- keting educators with some ideas that we hope will be use- ful in solving the integration problem. To develop the inte- gration gap, we give an overview of it, followed by a brief treatment of why doctoral students' exposure to the existing literature does not seem to be a completely effective means of teaching integration skills.

Works on the philosophy of science and empirical research in marketing have made it clear that theory, topic, measurement, and method are all part of a holistic research process (Bagozzi 1984; Brinberg and McGrath 1985). However, closing some gaps between those components is difficult. As an example, Bagozzi (1984) has noted that the conceptual meaning of a term in a theory, such as source credibility, should correspond with its empirical meaning or measurement. If the conceptual meaning of a term is not clearly reflected in its empirical meaning, an integration gap has occurred. Our concept of an integration gap refers to any lack of congruence between elements of theory, the research setting, and a hypothesis used to test empirically a relation- ship between variables drawn from the theory. To help close possible integration gaps, a research article should contain a

Marketing Education Review

Vol. 4 (Fall 1994), 2-15

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