Yadav (2010) and MacInnis (2011), both highlight that fact that empirical advances have outpaced the increased research on conceptualizations that enhance marketing thought. There is a decline in conceptual papers and this is a detrimental trend for our field’s growth because conceptual articles not only provide new ideas but also are more influential (in terms of citations and awards) than empirical papers (Yadav 2010). He also points out that conceptual papers play an important role in maintaining the discovery-justification balance in a field of research. According to MacInnis (2011), conceptualization is a process of abstract thinking involving the mental representation of an idea. Conceptual thinking is the process of understanding a situation or problem abstractly by identifying patterns or connections. Conceptual articles are academic articles devoted purely to thought-based conceptions (no data), for example, conceptual frameworks, integrative models, and reviews. These types of contributions are important for a field’s advancement because:
1.) These articles contribute toward development of new constructs that are basic units of knowledge advancement. Without understanding our concepts and constructs we cannot think in the right direction. If the conceptual papers do not conceptualize new constructs, we would keep studying the same constructs and limit our views about the world. Also, constructs are the fundamental basis on which measures are derived and theories are constructed and tested. Thus, their development is important.
2.) Reaching out (Wells 1993) is also for paramount significance to advance a research stream and also in the context of discovery. Conceptual advancement at the level of domains and cross-functional research through conceptual articles is critical to marketing academics and practice because it enhances the vitality of the field by introducing us to new unexplored areas, concepts and theories.
3.) Conceptual advances can also take place at procedural levels where there can be thought exchange about new methods, indentifying new procedures, implementation issues, challenges and limitations of a method/procedure, and novel ideas on how to solve those issues.
4.) A field can also grow by identifying and explaining relationships between constructs in a nomological network. When we understand these relationships, theories can be constructed, and these in turn clarify our knowledge about the world. Theories can also enable managers to have some predictive power of phenomena around them. Thus, conceptual understanding from theories enhances and refines our perspectives of the world and also avoids saturation in knowledge development. It is not just important to keep testing existing theories but it is equally important to develop new theories and thought processes that advance a field’s knowledge base.
But despite so many advantages of conceptual contributions, there are challenges it has to face, as identified by Yadav (2010): (1) Scholars’ ability and interest in integrative conceptual work has diminished, (2) doctoral programs concentrate heavily on method and analytical tools rather than on conceptual development seminars, (3) even the promotion and tenure system needs to give importance to conceptual contributions, and (4) the same applies to reviewers and review process too that give a disproportionate importance to empirical work and methodological rigor as compared to new ideas, theories or conceptual work.
Ultimately, I would say that conceptual papers should also be of high quality in terms of conceptual clarity, rationale, theoretical precision, scope, empirical testability of the model in the future, well-explained and drafted, logical thought flow, and logical managerial implications.