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How to Do a Systematic Literature Review

There has been a recent trend in several management disciplines, including supply chain management, to create knowledge by systematically reviewing available literature. So far, however, our discipline lacked a “gold standard” that guides researchers in this endeavor. The Journal of Supply Chain Management has now published our new article, Durach, Kembro & Wieland (2017): A New Paradigm for Systematic Literature Reviews in Supply Chain Management. Our systematic literature review process follows six steps: (1) develop an initial theoretical framework; (2) develop criteria for determining whether a publication can provide information regarding this framework; (3) identify literature through structured and rigorous searches; (4) conduct theoretically driven selection of literature and a relevance test; (5) develop two data extraction structures, integrate data to refine the theoretical framework, and develop narrative propositions; and (6) explain the refined framework and compare it to the initial assumptions. We believe that these best-practice guidelines, although developed for the SCM discipline, can be used as a blueprint also for adjacent management disciplines.

Durach, C.F., Kembro, J. & Wieland, A. (2017). A New Paradigm for Systematic Literature Reviews in Supply Chain Management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 53 (4), 67-85. DOI: 10.1111/jscm.12145

Theory Testing from a Critical Realist Perspective

In a previous post, it was demonstrated that researchers can play two different roles, as they can either build or test theories. An SMJ article by Miller and Tsang (2011), which is titled Testing management theories: Critical realist philosophy and research methods, focuses on the latter role we can play. The authors claim: “Not only do we have a plurality of theories within management research, there is also no consensus about the criteria for evaluating theories.” Taking a critical realist perspective, they advance practical guidance for evaluating management theories by proposing a four-step approach to theory testing. This approach includes (1) identifying the hypothesized mechanisms, (2) testing for the presence of the mechanisms in the empirical setting, (3) testing isolated causal relations, and (4) testing the theoretical system. The authors underline that “steps 2 and 3 have been neglected for the most part”. In sum, a lot can be learnt about theory testing from this brilliant article.

Miller, K., & Tsang, E. (2011). Testing management theories: Critical realist philosophy and research methods. Strategic Management Journal, 32 (2), 139-158 DOI: 10.1002/smj.868

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