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Operations management research: evolution and alternative future paths

Christopher W. Craighead (Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems, Smeal College of Business, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Jack Meredith (Babcock Graduate School of Management, Wake Forest University, Winston‐Salem, North Carolina, USA)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 18 July 2008




This paper aims to investigate the evolution of operations management (OM) research along two major dimensions from 1977 to 2003 and discusses possible paths for research progression in the future.


To identify OM research papers, a careful definition of OM research was constructed based initially on earlier work and then more precisely extended through empirical analysis. The research on OM builds on a previous study that took snapshots of OM research in 1977 and 1987. It then extends and updates it through a content analysis of 593 articles published in 1995 and 2003 in five journals recognized for publishing OM research.


The overall results illustrate that OM has evolved from heavily rationalistic, axiomatic analyses based on artificial reconstructions of reality toward more interpretive analyses based on natural observations of reality.

Research limitations/implications

As the OM field continues to evolve, it is important to monitor and reassess published research to discern its changing dimensions. While this effort is not an exhaustive review of all OM research and does not consider all relevant journals and years, it does offer the “big picture” perspective needed for analyzing changing research approaches in the field.

Practical implications

The research provides an analysis of the evolution of knowledge creation within the field and possible paths for its future development. The practical implications are that as research becomes more interpretive and observation‐based, the findings will have more relevance for managers and the problems they face.


While several authors have analyzed the OM field relative to select research methods and journals, this paper provides a broader and more encompassing view of OM research along two important research dimensions: the researcher's framework and the source of the data.



Craighead, C.W. and Meredith, J. (2008), "Operations management research: evolution and alternative future paths", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 28 No. 8, pp. 710-726.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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