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Towards a methodology for studying supply chain practice

Benedikte Borgström (Technology Management and Economics, Industrial Marketing, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden and Jönköping International Business School, Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Organization and Leadership, Centre of Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Jönköping, Sweden)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 31 August 2012




The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse a methodology for studying the practice of logistics and supply chain management (SCM), namely the mystery methodology.


Many SCM and logistics researchers share methodological presuppositions concerning the “reality status” that are usually unspoken and deviating from presuppositions of the methodology here investigated. By proposing an alternative methodology, the paper stimulates further ideas that will advance the discussion of research methodologies in SCM.


The methodology facilitates exploration and elaboration of anomalies in theory and in practice. The mystery construction process facilitates SCM research in three ways: as a consistent methodology for practice research; for learning and responsiveness to new insights; and with the problem of bounding the case.

Research limitations/implications

The methodology is delimited by its constructivist/interpretivist assumptions in order to provide accurate representations. It makes possible richer insights into, and the meaning of, SCM phenomena in which social action can be understood in an intelligible way.

Practical implications

Construction of mysteries opens up for learning during the research process by refining the research question and the literature base. Under the assumption that the researcher is knowledgeable about the literature in a variety of areas, the methodology implies rigour and relevance in SCM research.


This paper is grounded in contemporary supply chain integration problems and develops the discipline further with its alternative approach in which practice of action is in focus.



Borgström, B. (2012), "Towards a methodology for studying supply chain practice", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 42 No. 8/9, pp. 843-862.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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