Theses and Dissertations - UTB/UTPA

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Arturo Z. Vasquez-Parraga

Second Advisor

Dr. Jane LeMaster

Third Advisor

Dr. Angela Hausman


The purpose of this dissertation is to evaluate lawlike generalizations in relationship marketing (RM) and their contribution to the scholarly advancement of the marketing discipline. The current lack of such systematic evaluation is of significance not only because the contribution to progress constitutes a general requirement for all research streams in marketing, but also because an evaluation would solve the ongoing discussion about the substance and role of RM.

As a requirement for the evaluation, necessary and collectively sufficient criteria for lawlike generalizations have to be identified and operationalized. Because the marketing discipline lacks both a commonly agreed-upon set of criteria for lawlike generalizations and a successful attempt to operationalize previously suggested criteria, this dissertation identifies and categorizes criteria for lawlike generalizations stated or implied by philosophical and non-philosophical authors outside the immediate context of marketing. The identified criteria are categorized in terms of their nature, scope, applicability and function. Subsequently, each group of criteria is examined by identifying its underlying elements and by then subjecting those elements to an analysis in terms of their necessity and sufficiency in serving as elements of a criterion. Thereafter, the necessity and sufficiency of each criterion to assist in the determination of lawlikeness is evaluated. Based on the evaluation, a set of three criteria consisting of empirical testability, generalized conditionality, and counterfactual sustainability is identified that is necessary and collectively sufficient to assist in the analysis of lawlike generalizations in RM research. Fifteen specific rules are derived from the set of criteria and—as part of a content analysis—are applied on all generalizations in all articles published since 1980 in English in the United States, Europe, or Australia, in academic peer-reviewed print marketing journals with acceptance rates of 30 percent or less, that identify themselves as relating to the research stream of RM by explicitly using the terminology ‘relationship marketing’ in title, abstract, keyword, or outlet title or theme.

The detailed analysis shows that none of the generalized statements in the RM literature fulfills all three criteria for lawlike generalizations. The vast majority of generalizations fail more than one rule. Consequently, research in RM is not currently contributing to the scholarly advancement of the marketing discipline. Following the analysis, this dissertation demonstrates that with the assistance of the criteria and rules, many of the generalized statements from the RM literature can be improved towards achieving lawlikeness. This improvement application shows that the criteria and rules presented in this dissertation can aid researchers to overcome the lack of general principles development that is not only present in the area of RM, but appears to be symptomatic for the marketing discipline which has largely been unsuccessful in living up to its potential to develop theory.


Copyright 2003 Wolfgang Hinck. All Rights Reserved.

Granting Institution

University of Texas-Pan American