Saturday 21 December 2013

A paper rejected...

We recently found a photocopy of a single type-written page in LRB's papers that appears to be a peer review of a paper submitted to a journal. The date of this review is unknown, but it is probably from sometime in late 1975 or early 1976. We do not have a copy of this paper and we do not know what journal it was submitted to, but it would have been a paper based on his doctoral research carried out at Columbia University in collaboration with Prof. John U. Farley, his advisor. The review is unambiguously negative and it's safe to assume that this version of the paper was not accepted. In fact, there is no evidence that he ever published his thesis research in a journal, though his dissertation would soon win the John Howard-AMA award at American Marketing Association's meeting in 1976. LRB did publish his thesis as a book - Communications in Social Marketing: A Study in Family Planning - soon afterwards. 

The paper is poorly written, does not adequately review the literature, reflects a poor understanding of communications theory, and fails to offer a significant contribution to consumer behaviour research methodology. In fact, the proposed design suffers many shortcomings and is probably inferior to that used by most knowledgable researchers.

1. The author states that the paper's purpose is to offer a methodology by which social agencies can design messages to successfully alter family planning behaviors. The 'creativity' question addressed is improperly equated with determining which arguments to include in the presentation. This ignores the fundamental question of how and where to present the arguments. Should one use humor or fear, one-sided or two-sided argumentation, distraction, few repetitions or many, etc? The argument selection question only constitutes one aspect of the acceptance-rejection process, which is, in turn, only one stage in the total persuasion process, other stages, exposure, attention, comprehension, and retention and not discussed in the paper. This is a serious shortcoming.

2. The author's distinction between the advertising problem faced by profit versus nonprofit organizations is not totally adequate and may not even be correct. He states that profit firms only deal with lower order beliefs, while nonprofit firms must alter higher oder ones. This is contradicted by the successful campaign to encourage males to adopt hair spays and dryers, and annual mail early and file order campaigns by the post office and tax departments, respectively. It would appear that a more fundamental difference is that nonprofit organizations should have greater source credibility since their messages should be perceived as directed solely at benefitting the audience and not the organization itself.

3. In his development of a segmentation of the audience, the author assumes that the hierarchical attitude-behaviour concept is correct one. A more careful reading of the literature would reveal considerable controversy and many inconsistent findings (Festinger, Public Opinion Quarterly, 1964; Ray and Sawyer, J. Marketing Research, 1971 are but two examples).

4. The author does not do an adequate job in outlining his proposed research design, but given what is presented, it appears to be loaded with biases. The analysis seems to be highly subjective with no consideration of the question of construct validity. Do the values as determined by his judges have adequate convergent and discriminant validity? Are there any tests for this? What about reliability?

5. The research design as presented in this paper does not offer a meaningful contribution. The author claims to have empirical evidence supporting this claim. It is incumbent on the author to present these data so that his assertion can be validated. IN the present paper, few advantages are obvious.

- Anonymous peer reviewer.

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