Manuscript Guidelines for Topic Papers
These papers are a venue for building a body of short, well-structured, peer-reviewed papers that summarize and critique the published knowledge about a specific problem facing practicing managers and any evidence about to what extent and how proposed solutions (treatments) mitigate such a problem.
Topic papers are the management adaptation of the Critically Appraised Topics (CAT) as found in the medical literature. In that literature a CAT is defined as, “a standardized summary of research evidence organized around a clinical question, aimed at providing both a critique of the research and a statement of the clinical relevance of results” (Sadigh et al. 2012, p. 872). A CAT includes a sharply focused literature review of the research and its results; but more importantly, it critiques the validity, generalizability, methodological rigor, and applicability of the published research results. Because of its sharp focus, a Topic paper is only a few pages in length. Every Topic paper is peer-reviewed.
Topic papers for management practitioners are not the same as Critically Appraised Topics for medical practice. The comparative analysis of studies that is essential for critical appraisal is messier. Management does not currently follow and cannot follow the same clinical research traditions as medicine. We have too few large-n clinical studies, and large segments of management research use qualitative methods such as case studies, ethnographies and action research. Statistically-based meta-analysis is a luxury when the publication search produces a sufficient body of comparable statistical works. But in many cases, the meta-analysis has to be more sophisticated to critically compare and compile results in mixed methodologies. One technique for such a critical analysis that can cross quantitative and qualitative methods is meta-ethnography (Noblit and Hare 1988), and examples of Topics articles that represent such an analysis in brief tabular form can be found in (Moghadam et al., 2019).
Emphasis Areas for Authors
Relevant. Topic papers are centered on a problem currently facing practicing managers. Topic papers should be immediately useful in the practices of our readership.
Specific. Topic papers are driven by specific questions, ideally fitting the PICO frame: (P)roblem: What is the problem for which a solution is being sought? (I)ntervention: What solution is being considered as a means of treating this problem? (C)omparison: What alternative solutions have been systematically compared to the solution under consideration? (O)utcome: What are the known outcomes of the solution under consideration? Unlike more general forms of research questions, Topics articles questions are often Yes/No questions, e.g., Will two-factor authentication (I) decrease (O) customer account compromises (P) better than password criteria enforcement (C).
Critical. Topic papers critique the existing research in at least three ways. First, they will be very selective. Topics articles select research that examines both a problem facing practice AND a proposed solution. Second, they will select research that meets the rigor criteria in the study. Such criteria may include a requirement for a basis in empirics (such as experiments, field studies, clinical field work, etc.) In the end, and topics articles may boil the research literature down to a half-dozen or fewer relevant studies. Third, they will be finally critiqued in terms of their methodological rigor, (such as their statistical and practical significance cf. Mohajeri et al. 2020), their validity or believability, and their practicability.
Similarly, the questions underlying Topic papers can be highly context-dependent. It may be appropriate for Topics articles to add a final (C) to their PICO question: PICOC. This final C stands for “Context”, and permits the Topics articles to further narrow their study to industry segments like banking, manufacturing, government, etc. (Barends et al. 2017; Briner and Walshe 2014; Kepes et al. 2014). In management, Topics articles are closely associated with evidence-based management (Barends et al. 2017), making a library of Topics articles highly appropriate for the kinds of engagement management research performed by graduates from practice-oriented doctoral programs.
Finally, for further guidelines for Topic papers, see Barends, Rousseau, & Briner (2017) and examples Moghadam, Yates & Baskerville (2019)
Further Information on Topic Papers
Barends, E., Rousseau, D. M., and Briner, R. B. 2017. "Cebma Guideline for Critically Appraised Topics in Management and Organizations." from https://www.cebma.org/wp-content/uploads/CEBMa-CAT-Guidelines.pdf
Briner, R. B., and Walshe, N. D. 2014. "From Passively Received Wisdom to Actively Constructed Knowledge: Teaching Systematic Review Skills as a Foundation of Evidence-Based Management," Academy of Management Learning & Education (13:3), pp. 415-432.
Kepes, S., Bennett, A. A., and McDaniel, M. A. 2014. "Evidence-Based Management and the Trustworthiness of Our Cumulative Scientific Knowledge: Implications for Teaching, Research, and Practice," Academy of Management Learning & Education (13:3), pp. 446-466.
Moghadam, J., Yates, S. W., and Baskerville, R. 2019. "Critically Appraised Topic (CAT): Building a Library of Validated Practices," Engaged Management Review).
Mohajeri, K., Mesgari, M., and Lee, A. S. 2020. "When Statistical Significance Is Not Enough:Investigating Relevance, Practical Significanceand Statistical Significance," MIS Quarterly (forthcoming).
Noblit, G. W., and Hare, R. D. 1988. Meta-Ethnography: Synthesizing Qualitative Studies. Newbury Park: Sage.
Sadigh, G., Parker, R., Kelly, A. M., and Cronin, P. 2012. "How to Write a Critically Appraised Topic (Cat)," Academic Radiology (19:7), pp. 872-888.
Topics paper authors should adhere to the following structured outline for their report (for details and examples, see Moghadam et al. (2019). This outline is not intended as a method, steps or stages. Rather it is just the structure of the report to make the reports quickly accessible to our readers. Not every report will have every component in the outline.
- The clinical question or scenario.
This question typically asks whether a specific treatment is effective against a specific problem. In management, it might also ask whether a particular strategy is an effective means for achieving a particular end.
- Background on this question or scenario (the problem).
This background comprises an effectively and concisely articulated definition and scope of the problem under consideration. It must be concise enough to exclude irrelevant studies but cannot be so narrow that it excludes the best of the relevant scientific research.
- Search strategy, method, and evidence selection.
Like all good science, the Topics articles should follow a strong methodology for searching the scientific literature and determining how articles are selected for consideration in the study.
- Flow of discovery.
Often this step involves a graphical depiction of the method by which articles are identified, analyzed, and included in or excluded from consideration as evidence in the Topics articles.
- Results: critical appraisal.
The critical appraisal of the articles concerns their relevance to the question and the rigor of the underlying study and evidence, as reported in the article. This appraisal is based on the criteria for accepting the study into the comparison; if the criteria are not met, the study is rejected from consideration in the Topics articles.
- Conclusion and comments.
The section is made up of comments about the collective evidence contained in the articles considered within the Topics articles.
- Limitations and strengths.
The section is made up of comments about the quality of the Topics article review.
This step provides the answer to the clinical question. Answers are usually written in a concise form but include a recommendation as to whether the treatment under consideration has practical benefits or utility.
The submission should not be longer than 3,000 words. They make effective use of figures and tables devised in a way that require little or no elaboration in the text. References and appendices are not included in the word count. The use of citations should be kept to a maximum of twenty references that form key points to the literature. The abstract should be no longer than 200 words. For citation and reference style, use the Academy of Management Journal style, which can be found here. Use Times Roman 12-point type and the 8.5 x 11 inch page setting. The document should be double spaced throughout; place page numbers in the upper-right corner; and leave top and side margins of at least one inch.
Each author of an accepted article is asked to submit a biographical sketch of about 100 words. The sketch should identify relevant professional occupations and, if possible, your academic affiliation and degree (in progress or earned). You should identify also key contributions to the practice and/or academic achievements. You should include your email address. Please keep the EMR managing editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) advised of your address or long absence. A high-resolution photograph should also be provided.
Authors should review the EMR Mission Statement and Purpose prior to preparing their submission. Articles are submitted online. Submit here.
Accepted papers will be copy-edited by a professional copy editor. Authors are expected to review edits in page proofs. EMR will contact authors after the managing editor assigns the manuscript to an issue.
Ensure key technical terms are defined. A technical term is a word or phrase that is not in general use, that is, not normally be in the dictionary with a meaning that anyone other than you would normally ascribe to it. Put quotation marks around the first appearance in your submission of each technical term and provide a definition in the Glossary.
Avoid using abbreviations for the names of concepts. Use ordinary words for variable names, not code names or other abbreviations. Be consistent with naming conventions for constructs in text, tables and figures.
Names of organizations and research instruments may be abbreviated, but give the full name the first time you mention one of these.
Use text to describe mathematical concepts. In others words, use “we surveyed 200 engineers,” rather than “we surveyed n=200 engineers.” However, do use commonly accepted mathematical symbols such as Î² for regression weights and numbers to report results. Numbers are presented at most with two decimals. Put spaces on either side of equals signs, minus signs, etc.
Avoid language that might be interpreted as denigrating or biased.
Write in the active voice (“They did it.”) instead of the passive voice (“It was done.”) to make it easier to for readers to see who did what. Use the first person (“I” or “we”) to describe what you, or you and your coauthors did.
Tables and Figures can be used but they should be done sparingly and only when necessary to convey an important point central to the submission.