Kevin O’Gorman is Professor of Management and Business History and Head of Business Management in the School of Languages and Management in Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. He trained in Glasgow, Salamanca and Rome as a philosopher, theologian and historian. His research interests have a dual focus: Origins, history and cultural practices of hospitality, and philosophical, ethical and cultural underpinnings of contemporary management practices. Using a wide range of methodological approaches he has published over 80 journal articles, books, chapters, and conference papers in business and management.

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In an ideal world your paper should be aiming to fill the following four gaps:

  1. Theoretical Gap
  2. Methodological Gap
  3. Contextual Gap
  4. Management Practice Gap

If you want to hit a top ranked journal then you need a clearly articulated theoretical gap, whatever the subject of your research. It’s not your thing, it is your theory what matters! By this point it is hoped you will have done the majority of your background reading, and be familiar with the theoretical lenses and methodological approaches through which your chosen topic has already been studied, and the contexts in which the topic has been explored.

So, imagine an audience with a very limited knowledge of business and management and, in one or two sentences, tell them what has been done, and what still needs to be done. Next, explain your particular theory, how it is different from those you’ve encountered, and how it thus helps you do what needs to be done. Having explained your theory and why it’s useful, now explain the way in which this furthers/augments/extends understanding of your topic. The theoretical contribution of this study is…what? It may take several attempts, and will likely be subject to further revision, but in doing this you have identified and articulated both your theoretical gap and your contribution to theory. Published examples of this are offered above.

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The processes for articulating your methodological, contextual, and management practice gaps and contributions are largely the same, roughly corresponding to the how (method), the where (context), and the who cares (what are the insights for managers?) of your research, with a very important why being asked of each. For example, Bryce, O’Gorman and Baxter (2013) offer a clear articulation of their methodological contributions as follows:

“The importance of this paper is therefore three-fold; it demonstrates engagement with new qualitative methods from different disciplines. Second, it enhances our understanding of the development of commercial hospitality and trade through the adoption of alternative methodologies and perspectives. Third, it offers a methodological framework for future research. In offering a new and explicit methodological framework for using material culture as a means of enquiry, this paper answers the question: How can data from material culture be used to strengthen hospitality and tourism research methods? Exploring and discussing archaeological, architectural and artifactual data collection methods, from a material culture perspective, creates a three-level framework.”

Bryce, O’Gorman and Baxter (2013, p. 205)