Breaking out of the straitjacket of project research: in search of contribution

Mattias Jacobsson (Umeå School of Business, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)
Anders Söderholm (Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Publication date: 21 June 2011



The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how a different and partly new strategy is needed in order to make research on projects relevant and interesting to a wider scientific community, including organisation and management theory.


The aim is accomplished through a mystery‐focused process that identifies what is not explained and continuously confronts empirical data with theoretical explanations in an interactive manner.


Based on a phenomenology‐stimulated meta‐analysis of the field of project research, the paper outlines an alternative view of the field of project research and four streams of research, each of which is represented by its own scope, focus, audience and “taken‐for‐granted” assumptions. The streams are: in search of best practice, in search of legitimacy, in search of inspiration and in search of contribution.

Research limitations/implications

The paper suggests that, in order to make an true impact on management and social science theories in general, projects must be redefined as objects of study rather than the raison d'être. The inherent paradox, and the conclusion of the paper is that, in order to become more relevant for a broader research community, projects must be reduced to an empirical illustration, a case among others.


The paper provides a meta‐analysis of the project management research field and offers new insights into challenges that need to be addressed in order to make project management research relevant for a wider management research community.



Jacobsson, M. and Söderholm, A. (2011), "Breaking out of the straitjacket of project research: in search of contribution", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 378-388.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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