Overcoming Challenges in Marketing Theory Education: An Abstract

Matthew Wilson, Kerstin Heilgenberg, Jeannette Paschen, Karen Robson, Rebecca Dingus, Vida Julija Morkunas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Given the importance of being able to generate publishable theoretical contributions, marketing educators must ensure that students of marketing are well trained in understanding what a theoretical contribution is and how to develop one. Yet, not all doctoral programs in marketing offer a course on theory, and those that do vary greatly in their coverage of this essential topic. Little guidance exists on how, exactly, marketing educators can go about this task. Providing guidance on the instruction of marketing theory is the central goal of this paper. Specifically, the questions this paper aims to address are: Why is theory, and marketing theory in particular, so difficult to understand? How can marketing teachers effectively convey instruction on the topic of theory in marketing? How do marketing students know whether they have generated a theoretical contribution? The purpose of this paper is to elucidate what, exactly, a theoretical contribution in marketing is, and to offer practical advice for marketing educators on how to instruct aspiring scholars on this important topic. The challenges in understanding and developing theoretical contributions are noted by scholars in many disciplines. In addition to the typical challenges related to theory that scholars in all disciplines face, marketing as a discipline faces additional challenges that make contributing to theory in especially difficult. Despite these challenges, the discipline of marketing has produced a number of seminal theoretical contributions. To illustrate, we examine three examples of work that have advanced marketing theory and are particularly effective in conveying their theoretical contributions. These include: Price, Arnould, and Tierney’s 1995 paper on service encounters, the work of Kerin, Varadarajan, and Peterson (1992) on first mover competitive advantage, and Gaski’s (1984) paper on power and conflict in marketing distribution channels. This paper provides guidelines for educators regarding instruction of these complicated topics. These guidelines provide a resource that marketing educators can consult when developing courses or course modules on theory. Ultimately, we hope that this article will not only help marketing educators and students to better understand what reviewers are looking for and thus increase the likelihood of their article being accepted and published by an academic marketing journal but will also help authors to craft significant contributions that will enhance current marketing thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDevelopments in Marketing Science
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages2
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
ISSN (Print)2363-6165
ISSN (Electronic)2363-6173


  • Doctoral education
  • Marketing education
  • Theoretical contributions
  • Theory


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