One good first step is to let lose a bit of what you think you are working on at this moment, and seek inspiration.
in academic journals
- For example, try to look at the Table of Contents of some of the recent issues of good journals. What topics are “hot”? What kind of titles do other authors use?
- Browse the reference lists of a few articles you have identified to be relevant for your work. What authors do they cite? Do you encounter papers not yet part of your reference list? Chance is you haven’t even identified the core literature for your project yet. Read broadly.
- Pick out a few articles that you like, and that are written in good journals. How do authors write their introduction and “pitch” their idea? What do they suggest in their sections on “future research” (to be found towards the end of a paper)?
in practitioner journals, blogs, and magazines
- practitioner journals like Harvard Business Review are a great source of inspiration. Less so for the methodological rigor, and more so because they’re actually widely read in the business community, and are hence managerially extremely relevant. Like before, look at the Table of Contents to identify “hot” issues, browse some papers, and get inspired.
- Companies frequently host blogs or publish white papers. For technology-oriented topics, see McKinsey, or Accenture.
- It’s also worthwhile to check out corporate blogs and news sites.
at scientific research institutes (e.g., the Marketing Science Institute)
- The marketing world knows some excellent institutes that aim to bridge the gap between marketing academia and marketing practice. For example, the Marketing Science Institute publishes lists of important research topics regularly (see here for the 2022-2024 research priorities). Many academics look at these lists and let them shape their own research agendas. Why don’t you do the same?
policy makers (e.g., European Commission)
by talking to friends, or managers, or
by considering your own expertise and experience.
Importantly, your research question needs to be based on an intriguing, often observable, real-world marketing problem. Try changing the way people think about a particular research question!