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Social Business

Academic Papers

In broad terms Social Business seeks to attract three main kinds of ‘academic’ paper classified as Conceptual, Secondary and Empirical. These papers will be subject to rigorous double blind peer review. The distinguishing features of these three categories are as follows:

  • Conceptual: papers falling into this category seek to define a research issue and propose a theoretical explanation capable of empirical testing.
  • Secondary: papers falling into this category draw upon existing knowledge to define what is currently known about a topic or issue (a literature review) or synthesise such knowledge to provide a possible explanation of an issue or problem under review.
  • Empirical: papers falling into this category report the use of recognised research methodologies to test research propositions or hypotheses derived from conceptual or secondary research.

As implied by the headings to be employed in a Structured Abstract the format of all three kinds of paper will be very similar albeit that the emphasis given to the component parts will vary considerably. In essence, an academic paper will comprise five major elements:

  •     an introduction
  •     a literature review
  •     research methodology
  •     data analysis and findings
  •     conclusions and recommendations

Clearly, while the structure proposed may be applied to all kinds of academic paper the content suggested would be appropriate only to a major piece of research. Accordingly, many of the subheadings will not be applicable and so may be ignored. More detailed information on each of the aspects of an Academic Paper are given below, and in their book, Business and Management Research, Baker and Foy elaborate further on many of these elements.

Structured Abstract & Keywords

Abstracts are extremely important as they summarise the content of a longer piece of work and may often determine whether or not the reader will proceed to read the document as a whole. Abstracts, like executive summaries, usually appear at the beginning of a piece of research or other work but are also widely used as a stand-alone statement of the content and findings/conclusions of such work that will be used as the first point of reference by others undertaking secondary research into a subject or topic of interest to them.

As such, they are the stock in trade of abstracting services whose purpose is to provide an overview of what is currently known and being investigated by other persons working in the same Field. In other words an abstract is the ‘shop window’ for a piece of work and so needs to be clearly defined and attractive if it is to encourage further interest.

As a broad generalisation abstracts may be structured in accordance with guidelines issued by a publisher or conference organiser or left to the discretion of the author within a stated word limit. In essence ‘unstructured’ abstracts will contain much the same information as those following a prescribed format. However, Social Business, in common with a number of other leading journals considers that a structured abstract ensures that all the key aspects of the paper are covered and so requires submissions to take the following format:

  • Purpose: a clear statement of what the paper is about i.e. the research issue to be dealt with. Ideally the title of the paper should indicate the scope of the subject matter and this section should confirm and give a brief elaboration of this.
  • Design/methodology/approach: papers may be classified as belonging to a number of distinct categories identified as: conceptual papers; empirical papers reporting the findings of formal research; methodological or technical papers illustrating the application of a methodology or technique to the solution of a particular research issue; literature or general reviews; case studies; commentaries or viewpoints. (See the other pages in this part of the site for a brief description of these categories).
  • Findings: the main conclusions drawn from the materials covered by the description, discussion and analysis contained in the paper. This section should also spell out how the findings contribute to the overall concept of social business adopted by the journal, i.e. how or in what way has the research reported helped to eliminate poverty and enhance human welfare?
  • Limitations: all research is subject to some limitations and it is important that these be reported so that others may address them in future work.
  • Implications: on the assumption that all research is undertaken to improve understanding of the research issue the relevance of the reported findings for theory and practice should be stated.
  • Contribution: in selecting papers for publication editors and reviewers are concerned primarily that they should make an original contribution and add to current understanding of a problem or issue. While this does not preclude studies that replicate prior research, it is still necessary to demonstrate their value.

Keywords: keywords are essential when undertaking electronic research into databases. Keywords define the field, subfield, topic, research issue etc which are the focus of the content covered by a paper. In the case of SB the themes relevant to the concept of ‘Social Business’ embrace many disciplines each of which will contain numerous categories and subcategories. Accordingly, it would be unrealistic to propose specific keywords relevant to the journal and the authors should choose those most appropriate for their own field of inquiry.


The Introduction should cover the following aspects:

  1. The Research Issue or Problem: What is it?  Why is it important/significant? e.g. identifying the early adopters of new industrial products.
  2. Theoretical Foundations: What are the disciplinary foundations of the Research Issue ? i.e. Discipline(s), Field and Sub-Field. e.g. Sociology, Psychology and Marketing; Adoption and Diffusion of Innovations; New Product Development, Organisational Buying Behaviour.
  3. Working Proposition/ Hypotheses: “The early adopters of new industrial products may be pre-identified in terms of organisational and personal characteristics. Such identification will accelerate the adoption and diffusion of new industrial products.”
  4. Definitions.
  5. Boundaries/Scope of the Study.
  6. Overview of the structure of the written document.
  7. Summary and link to the next section.

Literature Review

The Literature Review should include the following:

  1. Introduction/Overview: A synoptic review of the sources and origins of the research in the field (Adoption and Diffusion of Innovations) and Sub-Field(s) (New Product Development, Organisational Buying Behaviour) as identified in Section 1. The substance of this review is the agreed status of knowledge as would be found in recent, major and established text books dealing with the Field, e.g. Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations,(2003) 5th, Edition; and the Sub-Field e.g. Michael Baker and Susan Hart, Product Strategy and Management, (2007).
  2. Research on the Topic: An in-depth inquiry into the sources that deal directly with the specific topic to be investigated. Some of the sources may be dated, e.g. Baker published his doctoral dissertation on this topic as Marketing New Industrial Products in 1975. However, the main thrust of one’s research should be in the immediate past, especially publications that post-date the text books. In addition to searching the published literature one should also scan the abstracts of unpublished dissertations. Once the relevant sources have been identified one should obtain copies, and critically review them following the procedures described, inter alia, by Chris Hart (1998).
  3. Cognate Research: A major criticism of much research in an interdisciplinary and hybrid subject like social business is that it fails to take cognisance of parallel research in cognate fields. For example, Rogers identifies nine “traditions” that have undertaken major research into the adoption and diffusion of innovation. In Europe there are two quite distinct “schools” with an interest in innovation and new product development – one focuses on engineering, the other on marketing and managerial issues. It is rare for members of one school to attend meetings of the other! With honourable exceptions like Rogers, the paradox is that there has been little diffusion between the schools and traditions.
  4. Conclusions: Drawn from the literature review and summarising what is known about the Research Issue. Equally, if not more important, what is NOT known, i.e. the information gap that needs to be addressed to illuminate the Research Issue/solve the Research Problem.
    Summary and link to the next section.

Research Methodology

The Research Methodology should include the following:

  1. Introduction: Link to previous section and overview of the structure and content of this section. ( ‘Methodology’ includes all aspects of the design and implementation of a piece of research.)
  2. Statement of the Research Issue/Problem: This may take the form of a general proposition or hypothesis elaborated into a series of linked propositions/hypotheses. Alternatively, where the research is exploratory, the problem may be specified as a question or series of research questions. It is these hypotheses etc. that need to be ‘answered’ to bring the research to a satisfactory conclusion.
  3. Overview of the Methods Available: While one is not required to describe the advantages/disadvantages of all the options available, the reader needs to be persuaded that the writer was aware of these, and has made an informed choice best suited to the needs of the project.
  4. Operationalisation: This must include definitions of the population to be surveyed and the procedures to be used in sampling this population. Next, one must define precisely the variables – dependent, independent and intervening – that are to be examined and the relationships (hypothesised) between these variables.
  5. Data Collection: The procedures to be used should be described in general, supported by a Table or Diagram to summarise how these will be implemented. The nature and design of the instruments to be used in collecting the data, e.g. interview schedule, questionnaire, should then be described in detail. Next, one must describe and justify the analytical techniques to be used.
  6. Implementation: A description of the implementation of the research, the outcomes, e.g. response rates, and a commentary on this.
  7. Summary and link to next section.

Data Analysis & Findings

Data Analysis & Findings should address the following:

  1. Introduction: Link to the previous section and overview of structure and content of this section.
    The structure of this section should follow that proposed in section 1 of section 3 (Statement of the Research Issue/Hypotheses) unless there is a very compelling reason for varying this
  2. Overview of the Primary Data: An evaluation of the data set in terms of its representativeness, validity and the extent to which it measures what it purports to measure.
  3. Analysis: A description of the techniques used to analyse the data and the extent and degree to which the findings confirm or infirm the hypothesised relationships. With the advent of powerful software, such as SPSS, there is a tendency to go directly to complex, multivariate procedures without first conducting a marginal analysis (descriptive statistics), analysis of variance and correlation. Where strong relationships (meaningful findings?) exist these simpler techniques will reveal them, and help inform the interpretation of more complex analyses. If such relationships are not apparent the merits of sophisticated statistical manipulation are questionable.
  4. Summary and link to the next section:  A reprise of the principle findings and results.

Conclusion & Recommendations

Conclusion & Recommendations should include:

    1. Introduction: Link to the previous  section and overview of the structure and content of this section.
    2. Conclusions: The conclusions drawn from the findings of both the secondary and primary research. These should include a critical commentary covering the strengths and weaknesses of the study and possible alternative explanations.
    3. Implications: An assessment of the potential impact of the study and its findings in terms of:
      i) Its contribution to knowledge/ understanding;

ii) Its contribution to theory and theory development;
iii) Its contribution to practice and application;
iv) Its implications for future research.

  • Recommendations: Specific recommendations that arise from the preceding section in terms of the implications of the findings.
  • Summary: Reprise of the Research Issue and the principal findings.


Clearly, while the structure proposed may be applied to all kinds of academic paper the content suggested would be appropriate only to a major piece of research. Accordingly, many of the subheadings will not be applicable and so may be ignored.

How to Submit Academic Manuscripts

Submissions should be of 6000-10000 words (excluding display material and references) typed double-spaced on Letter size paper.
Please ensure that the files are not saved as read only and virus-check all files before submitting them. Please also ensure that there are no tracked changes, macros or comments in the document. Manuscripts should be submitted online using the Social Business ScholarOne Manuscripts Site ( New users should create an account first. Then, once a user is logged into the site, submmissions should be made via the Author Centre.

You can find out more about how to use the ScholarOne Manuscripts site by clicking on the links on the Resources panel on the right of the login screen, or by clicking on the orange “Get help Now” link in the top right hand corner of the screen. If you require additional assistance you can email the Journal editorial office at

Please submit 2 versions of the manuscript
Version One
This should be a complete text, and should consist of:
Title page: title, authors’ names, affiliations and addresses and the name, address, email address, and telephone and fax numbers of the author to whom all correspondence concerning the article should be sent, and a biography for each author (c. 150 words each) detailing the authors’ background, affiliations and interests.
Second page: title, structured abstract and up to six keywords for indexing purposes.

Version Two
In Version Two of the manuscript all document information identifying the author should be removed from files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees. The first page of the file should include: title, structured abstract and up to six keywords for indexing purposes

Authors must refer to the Guidelines for Authors for information on how to present references, spelling, figures and tables etc. Manuscripts which do not follow the Guidelines for Authors may be sent back to authors for correction prior to being entered into the review process.