Truth or Urban Legend?

Method Variance in Organizational Research: Truth or Urban Legend?”, currently appears as one of the most frequently cited articles in Organizational Research Methods, based on citations to online articles from HighWire-hosted articles. The article was published in the April 2006 issue of ORM and written by Paul E. Spector, University of South Florida. Professor Spector kindly provided some additional background information regarding the popular article.

I was asked how I came to write “Method Variance in Organizational Research: Truth or Urban Legend?” that appeared in Organizational Research Methods in 2006. After a session on the journal review process at the Southern Management Association conference in 2003, Bob Vandenberg (University of Georgia) suggested to me, Larry Williams (Purdue University) and a few others that we should organize a session on methodological urban legends for the Academy of Management (AOM) conference. Bob’s idea is that we would talk about widely accepted methodological practices that have a questionable basis. Having been interested (with my USF colleague Mike Brannick) in the misunderstanding of common method variance, it was the first topic I thought to contribute. Bob organized the session for the 2004 AOM conference, which was given to a standing room only crowd of several hundred. Given strong interest in the session we decided to publish the papers as a feature topic in an upcoming issue of Organizational Research Methods. Three of us expanded our conference papers that were published in 2006. In addition to my paper there was Chuck Lance, Marcus Butts and Lawrence Michels (University of Georgia) on cutoff criteria, and Larry James, Stan Mulaik (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Jeanne Brett (Northwestern University) on tests for mediation. All three of these papers have been widely cited.

My interest in common method variance and methodological urban legends has continued following publication of this Organizational Research Methods paper. In 2010 Mike Brannick and I were editors for an Organizational Research Methods feature topic on common method variance. One of the papers was based on a panel discussion Mike and I participated in at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) conference in 2009. Around the same time, Bob Vandenberg, who as the Organizational Research Methods editor-in-chief at the time put out a call for another feature topic on methodological urban legends to parallel a methodological urban legends session at SIOP in 2010. Mike Brannick and I contributed a paper on the misuse of statistical control variables that will be published in Organizational Research Methods in 2011 along with some other methodological urban legend papers.

Editor’s Note: You can read that article and the others that Professor Spector mentions in the April 2011 issue of Organizational Research Methods.


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