Paradigms in service research

Bård Tronvoll (Hedmark University College, Norway and CTF‐Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden)
Stephen W. Brown (Center for Services Leadership, W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Dwayne D. Gremler (College of Business, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA)
Bo Edvardsson (CTF‐Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Publication date: 11 October 2011



Recent discussions of the service‐dominant logic (S‐D logic) and the creation of a multidisciplinary service science highlight the need for a paradigmatic discussion that provides directions for ongoing service research. This article aims to examine different epistemological foundations and proposes a framework to describe and better understand the development and future of service research.


Using the proposed framework, an assessment of 60 selected award‐winning and most cited articles is categorized using the paradigmatic framework.


Four paradigms are found to be prominent in service research: positivistic, hermeneutic, dialogic, and monologic. The positivistic option has been the dominant paradigm employed by service scholars, suggesting service scholars need to apply the three alternative paradigms more as a means to enrich and extend the service research discipline.

Research limitations/implications

There is a need to discuss the fundamental beliefs and worldviews (ontological and epistemological positions) guiding service research. Paradigms are critical determinants and drivers of good research.


A new framework for analyzing paradigmatic foundations in service research and directions for the future design of service research studies is proposed. The suggested framework could inspire scholars to reflect on their ontological and epistemological foundations and provide paradigmatic guidance within service research. This provides a basis for continuous expansion of the service research field.



Tronvoll, B., Brown, S., Gremler, D. and Edvardsson, B. (2011), "Paradigms in service research", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 560-585.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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