Conducting content‐analysis based literature reviews in supply chain management

Stefan Seuring (Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany)
Stefan Gold (Enterprise Institute, Université de Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Publication date: 3 August 2012



Inconsistent research output makes critical literature reviews crucial tools for assessing and developing the knowledge base within a research field. Literature reviews in the field of supply chain management (SCM) are often considerably less stringently presented than other empirical research. Replicability of the research and traceability of the arguments and conclusions call for more transparent and systematic procedures. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate on the importance of literature reviews in SCM.


Literature reviews are defined as primarily qualitative synthesis. Content analysis is introduced and applied for reviewing 22 literature reviews of seven sub‐fields of SCM, published in English‐speaking peer‐reviewed journals between 2000 and 2009. A descriptive evaluation of the literature body is followed by a content analysis on the basis of a specific pattern of analytic categories derived from a typical research process.


Each paper was assessed for the aim of research, the method of data gathering, the method of data analysis, and quality measures. While some papers provide information on all of these categories, many fail to provide all the information. This questions the quality of the literature review process and the findings presented in respective papers.

Research limitations/implications

While 22 literature reviews are taken into account in this paper as the basis of the empirical analysis, this allows for assessing the range of procedures applied in previous literature reviews and for pointing to their strengths and shortcomings.


The findings and subsequent methodological discussions aim at providing practical guidance for SCM researchers on how to use content analysis for conducting literature reviews.



Seuring, S. and Gold, S. (2012), "Conducting content‐analysis based literature reviews in supply chain management", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 17 No. 5, pp. 544-555.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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