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Career studies in search of theory: the rise and rise of concepts

Yehuda Baruch (Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, UK)
Nóra Szűcs (Institute for Human Resource Management, WU Vienna, Vienna, Austria)
Hugh Gunz (University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to introduce further clarity to career scholarship and to support the development of career studies by complementing earlier theoretical literature reviews with an evidence-based historical analysis of career-related terms.


Data from 12 career scholars were collected using the historical Delphi method to find consensus on the career terms that have shaped career studies between 1990 and 2012. The authors then explored the literature by collecting data on the occurrence of these terms, analyzing frequencies and trends via citations and indexes of citation using a mixed-method combination of historical literature review and performance analysis.


Career scholarship is indeed a descriptive field, in which metaphors dominate the discipline. Career success and employability are basic terms within the field. The discipline tends to focus narrowly on career agents. There is a plethora of terminology, and, contrary to the expectations, concepts introduced tend not to fade away.


The authors offer an overarching perspective of the field with a novel mixed-method analysis which is useful for theory development and will help unify career studies. Earlier comprehensive literature reviews were mostly based on theoretical reasoning or qualitative data. The authors complement them with results based on quantitative data. Lastly, the authors identify new research directions for the career scholarship community.



Baruch, Y., Szűcs, N. and Gunz, H. (2015), "Career studies in search of theory: the rise and rise of concepts", Career Development International, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 3-20.



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