What's the story behind your first paper?
Explains the background to my first ever academic publication, which was chosen as the top paper for research in global careers
My paper The persistent myth of high expatriate failure rates was first-ranked in the WAIB top-20 on research in global careers. I was therefore interviewed by Saba Colakoglu and Ha Nguyen, who came up with some great questions. This blogpost covers their first question.
- Harzing, A.W. (1995) The persistent myth of high expatriate failure rates, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 6 (May): 457-475. Available online... - Publisher’s version - Referenced in BBC Earth news story
Can you tell us the story behind your IJHRM 1995 paper?
This article, like the Bears, Bumblebees, and Spiders article that was also ranked in the WAIB top-20 was linked to my PhD. The 1995 paper was my very first publication. It came directly from my literature review in the first year of my PhD, where I found expatriate failure to be a big topic. Most articles on expatriation with a statement that expatriate failure rates were (very) high to justify doing research on the topic of expatriation. But when I started looking up the references they used, I couldn’t find any empirical evidence for this claim. So, I went through some 30 articles in the whole citation network. That wasn't easy. Remember this was before the Internet even existed. And what I found was that there really wasn’t any empirical evidence. The persistent myth of high expatriate failure rates appeared to have been created by massive (mis)citations of three articles.
The article itself was published quite easily in the then new International Journal of Human Resource Management. I only had to do one round with very minor revisions, which took me all of half a day. Moreover, the single reviewer for the paper was very kind. So, for a junior academic it was an excellent start to the publishing process, nothing like some of my later experiences that were quite brutal. For one of my next articles I was told by one of the reviewers that I might as well give up my academic career as I clearly had no clue how to write. I am glad I didn't listen to their advice as I still think academia is a great career.
To be honest though, I cringe a little when I read my 1995 article now as its writing style is a bit clumsy. Not a lot of people know this, but I never enrolled in a formal PhD programme. This was not unusual in the Netherlands 30 years ago. Formal PhD programs were only just starting up and most academics would do their PhD part-time while already working as a regular lecturer, as I did. But it did mean I didn’t get any formal training during my PhD studies. I also had to find my own supervisors. One was in another institution, the other even in another country. They were wonderful people, but very hands-off. So, to be honest I had absolutely no clue how to write an academic article.
But I enjoyed researching the article and getting to the bottom of something. As you can hear in the interview that I did in the Frontline IB interview series by Ilgaz Arikan, I wanted to be a detective when I was young. If I read the 1995 paper now, I can see it is very much written up as a detective story. I was documenting my investigations in real time, something I was later told you should never do in academic articles. I didn’t have a strong affinity to theory early in my career, but I did – and still do – enjoy forensic investigations to get to the bottom of something. I think I was lucky to inherit a bit of creativity from my father – who is an artist, a sculpturer – and a lot of common sense and a strong ability to just keep going from my mother. The two combined were perfect for this kind of article.
More forensic examinations
I have continued to publish papers that required forensic investigations all through my academic career in the next decades. Most of these articles were in the area of bibliometrics and research evaluation which is more data driven than Business & Management:
- Health warning: Might contain multiple personalities. Shows how a lack of name disambiguation leads to serious distortion of the Essential Science Indicators
- Forever young? University age in the Times Higher Education Young Universities ranking Queries whether the THE Young ranking is taking the definition of young a little too far
- Web of Science: How to be robbed of 10 years of citations in one week! Shows how I was "robbed" of citations through inaccurate publication matching in the Web of Science
- Is ISI misunderstanding the Social Sciences? Documents how ISI is inappropriately applying Science-based criteria to articles in the Social Sciences
- Are referencing errors undermining our scholarship and credibility? Discusses how myths are created through careless referencing
- Australian research output in Economics & Business: quantity over quality? Shows the discrepancy between research productivity and research impact for Australian research
- Bank error in your favour? How to gain 3,000 citations in a week Shows how I gained 3,000 citations in a week through inaccurate publication matching in the Web of Science
- Strange journal invitations popping up in my inbox every day Discusses the phenomenon of predatory open access journals
- The mystery of the phantom reference: a detective story Shows how sloppy writing and sloppy quality control lead to a non-existing article being cited nearly 400 times
- Should we distance ourselves from the cultural distance concept? Argues IB research would do well to reconsider its fascination with distance measures
- An Australian "productivity boom"? ... or maybe just a database expansion? Shows how difficult longitudinal bibliometric analyses are when database coverage changes
- Running the REF on a rainy Sunday afternoon: Do metrics match peer review? Short summary of white paper that proposes replacing the REF with a metrics-based exercise
In the same series
- What's the story behind your first paper?
- How to publish an unusual paper? Referencing errors, scholarship & credibility
- Publishing with a student: Expatriate Failure revisited
- What are your current passions and interests?
- Five lessons from my first publications
- What made my early work impactful?
- How do do impactful research?
Copyright © 2022 Anne-Wil Harzing. All rights reserved. Page last modified on Mon 19 Dec 2022 09:03
Anne-Wil Harzing is Professor of International Management at Middlesex University, London and visiting professor of International Management at Tilburg University. She is a Fellow of the Academy of International Business, a select group of distinguished AIB members who are recognized for their outstanding contributions to the scholarly development of the field of international business. In addition to her academic duties, she also maintains the Journal Quality List and is the driving force behind the popular Publish or Perish software program.