2 Dec 2011

Good Universities or Good Students?

Are the top ranked universities the best places to study or do research?

I ask this because after talking to a number of PhD students studying in the UK, it appears that doctoral researchers in lower ranked Universities get more help and are often better supervised than students in some of the so called "top ranked" universities.

For example, at one doctoral conference I met this brilliant chap who was presenting a poster. He was doing his PhD in one of the "top ranked" Universities in the UK and his supervisor is a leading academics in the field of Marketing. Of course I asked how it was like being supervised by the renowned Professor. Imagine my surprise when I learnt that he had met his supervisor only TWICE ever since he started his PhD and he was already in his second year. And he is not the only one. I know of several guys in top universities narrating their frustration with the lack of good supervision and how their supervisors had sat on their drafts/ reports for months without providing any feedback.

I know that PhD students are supposed to be independent and that these Professors are really busy but I feel that this is very irresponsible - besides carrying out ground breaking research, they are supposed to supervise their students as well. That's why they are paid such huge salaries.Sometimes it appears that the only time the supervisors show some interest is when the students submit journal papers for publication as their names are also included (sometimes as the lead author).

However, despite the quality of supervision (or lack of) these students go on to complete their research and amazingly even do it within the stipulated 3 years + or - a few months. I attribute this to the fact that the students were themselves high achievers, independent and hard working in the first place.

Of course I cannot deny that these top ranked Universities have excellent facilities and offer all kinds of opportunities to the students - opportunities not available to students in lower ranked (and lower funded) universities. However, these top universities put up such high selection criteria and select only the cream of the applicants. In other words Top universities attract Top students and of course, their output is excellent as well.

My experiences were a bit different, I had two excellent supervisors and I could fix an appointment to meet them whenever I wanted to even though they were quite busy and I actually kind of liked being independent in the first place. One of my supervisors went through the final draft of my thesis in just one week and there were comments on almost every page. It is no wonder that he is one of the youngest Professors in Warwick.

If you are currently doing your PhD or have recently completed it, I would love to hear your experiences. Did you receive the level of supervision which you had expected when you started out your PhD.

27 Oct 2011

PhD Acknowledgements

In the name of God, most Gracious, most Merciful.

I wish to express my sincere appreciation to those who have contributed to this thesis and supported me in one way or the other during this amazing journey.

First of all, I am extremely grateful to my main supervisor, Professor Qing Wang, for her guidance and all the useful discussions and brainstorming sessions, especially during the difficult conceptual development stage. Her deep insights helped me at various stages of my research. I also remain indebted for her understanding and support during the times when I was really down and depressed due to personal family problems.

My sincere gratitude is reserved for Professor Lloyd C. Harris for his invaluable insights and suggestions. I really appreciate his willingness to meet me at short notice every time and going through several drafts of my thesis. I remain amazed that despite his busy schedule, he was able to go through the final draft of my thesis and meet me in less than a week with comments and suggestions on almost every page. He is an inspiration.

Very special thanks to the Warwick Business School for giving me the opportunity to carry out my doctoral research and for their financial support. It would have been impossible for me to even start my study had they not given me a scholarship in my first year. I am also honoured that I was appointed to the first PhD part time teaching position in the school during the second year of my study which was subsequently extended to the third year.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Associate Professor Scott Dacko and Professor Amanda Broderick - my viva examiners, for their very helpful comments and suggestions.
Heartfelt thanks goes to my mentor, Mr. Grier Palmer for taking me under his wing. I will never forget his support and for providing me numerous opportunities to learn and develop as a teacher.

PhD students often talk about loneliness during the course of their study but this is something which I never experienced at Warwick. A heartfelt thanks to the really supportive and active Malaysian community here in Coventry and all my friends who made the Warwick experience something special, in particular, Nicos, Martin, John Dilip, Luiz, Roberta, Mo, Kabir, Charoula, Arben, Ihsan, Rupal, Zaman, Malik, Bang, Zikri, Khadijah, Wolfgang and Mel. Special thanks to Emma for proof reading my final draft.

I am also indebted to my friends Amrul, Mozard and Nana, not only for all their useful suggestions but also for being there to listen when I needed an ear.

A big “Thank you!” also goes out to everybody who participated in this study including all my blogger friends who helped promote my online questionnaire on their blogs.

Words cannot express the feelings I have for my parents and my in-laws for their constant unconditional support - both emotionally and financially. I would not be here if it not for you. Special thanks are also due to my sis-in-law Eju and her husband, Muz for their amazing support. It is amazing to have family close by so far away from home.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the most important person in my life – my wife Ezlika. She has been a constant source of strength and inspiration. There were times during the past four years when everything seemed hopeless and I didn’t have any hope. I can honestly say that it was only her determination and constant encouragement (and sometimes a kick on my backside when I needed one) that ultimately made it possible for me to see this project through to the end.

7 Oct 2011

First week as a Lecturer at Coventry University

Today marks the end of my first week at The department of Marketing and Advertising at Coventry University Business School.

This is my first full time job in the UK and I finally got it after 5 unsuccessful interviews.I am really happy as Coventry University is ranked higher than some of the other Universities which rejected me and it also means that I do not have to re-locate to another city.

My office is located at the historic William Morris building which dates from 1916 and is named after the founder of the Morris car company. They used to build the engines here.

The staff are really friendly and helpful and I have settled in quite well. Today I also finally got my staff card and university email id. Going through the numerous security locked doors every time I wanted to go to toilet or grab a bite, has been really frustrating and I had a strange feeling of freedom being able to roam around the corridors of the William Morris building without having to ask someone for help to get through he doors.

Here is the presentation titled "Marketing plans are worthless but strategy is everything" which I made to staff of the department as part of the interview process.

6 Sept 2011

Academic promotions at Harvard

I recently participated in a seminar on HBS Case Teaching at the Warwick Business School, which was run by Grier Palmer who is Assistant Dean, Teaching and Learning at the school. He had recently gone to Harvard for a short course and was sharing his experiences.

One of the interesting things he shared among others, was an insight into promotions of academics at Harvard.

In most Universities, the most important criteria for academic promotions are publications. I have had several academics telling me that the secret to success in an academic career all boils down to how many papers you have published in high ranking journals.

One academic even told me that it does not even matter if your teaching "sucks" as long as you have regular publications in top ranking journals. Apparently, in Harvard it is slightly different. The most important criteria is getting publications out but over there they are more interested in case studies. Not surprising as case studies are a major source of income for the Harvard Business School and the University ultimately.

Another criteria were the student evaluations (so if you suck, you are out) which I guess should be the case as people pay huge sums of money to get into business schools and expect to receive a good teaching and learning experience.

 Finally, another important criteria for academic promotions was based on linkages with alumni and businesses. That does really make business sense. In other words, you really have to be an all rounder if you want to rise in Harvard. No wonder they are at top - at least among business schools.

25 Aug 2011

Sample size in Quantitative studies

Is your sample size sufficient for your quantitative analysis? This is a question that a lot of doctoral researchers ask. I guess it depends on the type of analysis used. My PhD research looked at blog readers and I used Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) to analyse my data. I used the following to justify my sample size.
  • For factor analysis, according to Hair et al., (2010), a sample should preferably be more than 100 for factor analysis to proceed
  • However,  according to Tabachnick and Fidell (2007 p. 613), it should be higher than 300 cases, the number that is considered “comfortable”.
If you are doing SEM:
  • A ratio of ten responses per free parameters is required to obtain trustworthy estimates (Bentler and Chou, 1987).
  • Others suggest a rule of thumb of ten subjects per item in scale development, is prudent (Flynn and Pearcy 2001).
  • However, if data is found to violate multivariate normality assumptions, the number of respondents per estimated parameter increases to 15 (Bentler and Chou 1987; Hair, et al. 2006).

BENTLER, P. M. & CHOU, C. P. (1987) Practical issues in structural modeling. Sociological Methods & Research, 16, 78.

FLYNN, L. & PEARCY, D. 2001. Four subtle sins in scale development: Some suggestions for strengthening the current paradigm. International Journal of Market Research  43: (4) 409-433.

HAIR, J. F., BLACK, W. C., BABIN, B. J. & ANDERSON, R. E. 2010. Multivariate Data Analysis: A Global Perspective, New Jersey, Pearson Prentice Hall.

TABACHNICK, B. G. & FIDELL, L. S. 2007. Using Multivariate Statistics (5th Ed.) New York, HarperCollins.

8 Aug 2011

Passed my Viva

I finally passed my PhD viva with minor corrections last Thursday (4th of August, 2011). My external examiner was Prof Amanda Broderick, Professor of Marketing & Deputy Dean (Queens Campus) of Durham Business School while my internal examiner was Dr. Scott Dacko, Associate Professor of Marketing & Strategic. Warwick Business School - two of the nicest people.

The journey was hard was it was well worth it in the end.

Read my blog post about it on the PhD Life blog "My Viva – Light at the end of the tunnel".

30 Jul 2011

On the Knowledge Centre website

Just found out that I am on the University of Warwick Knowledge Centre site. Check out my short video clip of an interview on blogging, which I have uploaded on YouTube.

Related link: "What type of blogger are you?" Quiz.

20 Jul 2011

Non-normal data and SEM

There are a number of interesting discussions going on in the Doctorate Support Group on Facebook. One of the more recent discussion was started by one of the members who had normality issues with her data.

Normality is an issue because it is one of the basic assumptions required in order to carry out structural equation modelling (SEM) analysis (BYRNE, B. M. (2010) Structural equation modeling with AMOS: Basic concepts, application and programming, New York, Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.).

Normality means that the distribution of the data is normally distributed with mean=0, standard deviation=1 and a symmetric bell shaped curve. Normally the Skewness and Kurtosis measures are checked:

  • Skewness: value should be within the range ±1 for normal distribution.
  • Kurtosis: Value should be within range ±3 for normal distribution.

So what happens when your data is non-normal?

You don't have to worry unless the departure from normality is very severe.

1. Several studies have shown that most data in social sciences has non-normal distribution.

Bentler, P.M., & Chou, C.-P. (1987). Practical issues in structural modeling. Sociological Methods & Research, 16, 78-117.

Barnes, J., Cote,J., Cudeck, R. and Malthouse, E. (2001). Checking Assumptions of Normality before Conducting Factor Analyses. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 10(1/2), pp. 79-81.

2. The ML estimator is considered relatively robust to violations of normality assumptions.

Diamantopoulos, A., Siguaw, J. & Siguaw, J. A. (2000). Introducing LISREL: A guide for the uninitiated, Sage Publications.
Bollen, K. A. (1989) Structural equations with latent variables, Wiley New York.

3. Monte-Carlo experiments found no major differences in terms of SEM analysis results using ML estimator on samples of different sizes and with different Kurtosis and Skewness levels.

Reinartz, W., Haenlein, M. & Henseler, J. (2009). An empirical comparison of the efficacy of covariance-based and variance-based SEM. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 26, 332-344.

4. Bootstrapping is increasingly being used to get around this issue.

Preacher, K. J. & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36, p. 717.

5. Large sample size leads to reduction in the problem if multivariate non-normality.

Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J. & Anderson, R. E. (2010) Multivariate Data Analysis: A global perspective Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson Education Inc.

Note: Severely non-normal data would probably need another alternative approach.

24 Jun 2011

Does your first degree even matter?

I was going through the CVs of some eminent professors at the Warwick Business School and I was quite surprised when I found out that the first degree of a number of them was not business related. An excellent example is Peter Corvi who is the Associate Dean (Undergraduate Programme) and Professorial Teaching Fellow in Finance at WBS. Looking at his CV, I discovered that he has a BSc Mathematical Physics (Edinburgh), MASt Mathematics (Cambridge) and PhD Theoretical Physics (Edinburgh). And now he teaches Finance.

There are several other academics whose first degree were not business/ management related including engineering, agriculture, architecture and so on but they are all now teaching business and management related subjects in business schools.

I have a background in Forestry (BSc Forestry and MSc Forest Products) and I am now doing a PhD in Marketing looking at consumer attitudes towards blogs and sponsored posts on blogs. Like a lot of people, I was able to make this huge move only though my MBA. IN my MBA class, we had people from all educational backgrounds, including Islamic studies, engineering and even a medical doctor.

I am getting back in touch with a lot of my old University mates via Facebook and was not really surprised when I found out that many of them were now working and doing really well in fields other than Forestry or Horticulture all around the World including banking, insurance and consulting.

My previous educational background has not hampered me in moving to the field of Marketing in any way. In fact it has made my experience richer.

17 Jun 2011

Presentation on teaching with blogs

This Wednesday, I delivered a presentation on 'Teaching with blogs' along with Peter Kirwan from the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick. This presentation was part of the Window on Teaching sessions at the University of Warwick.

While Peter talked about his experiences on teaching using blogs, I talked about increasing the interactivity of the blogs and integrating with social networks.

For more information and to watch a video of the presentation click this link 'Teaching With Blogs'.

Update: (Powerpoint Presentation) My Powerpoint slides on Social Media

30 May 2011

Academics start working with Wikipedia

With the aim of making Wikipedia more credible, I started the Credible Wikipedia page on Facebook some time back and even blogged about it on the PhD Life blog. Unfortunately, I haven't received the support that I imagined that I would get here in the UK or from my friends in Malaysia.

However, academics across the Atlantic are quite proactive and recently the Association for Psychological Science is urging their members to join the APS Wikipedia Initiative in order to "deploy the power of Wikipedia to represent scientific psychology as fully and as accurately as possible".

I foresee the beginning of something huge.

28 May 2011

Welcome to Dilipmutum.com

This is where I note down my thoughts on my current research, marketing issues, social networking and other topics of interest.

Marketing and FT 50 Journals list

Another prestigious list of business journals is the FT 50 Journals list . This is a list 50 journals compiled by the Financial Times and in...