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Countdown to Commencement: Zhanfei Lei, PhD Student

Zhanfei Lei

Zhanfei Lei

As part of Scheller’s Countdown to Commencement series, we interviewed a few soon-to-be graduates from our undergraduate, MBA, and Ph.D. programs to learn about their backgrounds, why they chose Scheller College, and what they plan to do after Spring 2019 Commencement.

Meet Zhanfei Lei: 

A native of Xi’an, China, Zhanfei is completing her Doctoral concentration in Information Technology Management (ITM). Her dissertation topic is “The Role of Online Reviews in Consumer Decision-Making.” Post-graduation Zhanfei will be assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her prior degrees include Master of Science in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor of Management in Information Management and Information System from Nanjing University.

What is your dissertation topic and details?

My dissertation topic is “The Role of Online Reviews in Consumer Decision-Making.”

A little bit about my research - As a prominent form of user-generated content, online reviews have become increasingly indispensable for consumers to make purchase decisions. Thus, it is critical to understand what sets helpful reviews apart from unhelpful ones, which kinds of reviews consumers prefer to read, and how online reviews shape consumer purchase decisions. Prior research has examined diverse determinants of review helpfulness and the effect of summary rating statistics on product sales. However, few studies have examined the impact of reviewers’ writing styles on review helpfulness, explored the critical role of consumers’ initial beliefs before they read and evaluate reviews, or investigated the likelihood of individual reviews to sway consumers’ attitude and purchase decisions.

Addressing these important gaps and scrutinizing commonly accepted assumptions, my dissertation aims to explore how, why, and when various aspects of online reviews influence consumers’ judgment of review helpfulness, preference in information seeking, attitudes and purchase decisions. Specifically, this dissertation includes three essays, examining 1) how and when the self vs. other focus of reviewers’ attention in expressing their opinions impacts prospective consumers’ perceptions of review helpfulness, 2) consumers’ preference for confirmatory or disconfirmatory reviews when they seek and evaluate review information about a product, and 3) how and when online reviews can sway consumers’ attitude toward a product.

Why did you choose Scheller College of Business?

I was attracted to Scheller College’s great research environment. Scheller taught me how to balance and organize my time. Doctoral study here means that you will be a teaching and/or research assistant, a full-time Ph.D. student who needs enthusiasm, and an instructor who is in charge of everything during your individual teaching. At Scheller, you will experience different roles and gain a lot from those roles.

What was your favorite course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it?

I enjoyed the Friday ITM seminars where I obtained knowledge of the business value of information technologies and had the opportunity to learn different methodologies to explore various relevant research questions.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into a doctoral program at Scheller College?
Get ready to challenge yourself everyday while also enjoying your impressive and amazing Ph.D. life.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue your doctorate in business?

Definitely my parents.


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