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Interrelationships between theory and research impact: Views from a survey of UK academics

Gary D. Holt (Department of Built and Natural Environment, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)
Jack Goulding (Grenfell-Baines School of Architecture, Construction and Environment, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)
Akintola Akintoye (School of Built and Natural Environment, University of Central Lancashire,Preston, UK)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 17 November 2014




Of late within the UK, government funded research has emphasised “impact” as a prerequisite for financial support, while the Research Excellence Framework (REF) now also includes impact as an assessment criterion. The purpose of this paper is to investigate perceptions of the construction management research (CMR) community on “impact”, especially, in relation to its possible future interrelationships with theory generation and development, research design and research outputs.


A mixed methods design employs a structured questionnaire survey of CMR academics to collect numeric (scaled) and qualitative (narrative) data. These are analysed using graphical, descriptive statistical and informal content analysis techniques to examine perceptions and inference.


There is a self-reported high understanding of impact and theory as separate concepts, but variance among perceptions as to their interrelationships. In addition, there is greater acceptance of the role of impact relating to research grants, but less so in relation to the REF. Respondents were ambivalent regarding possible effects, that an increasing emphasis on impact may have for the future. There was “slight agreement” that impact was good for CMR and, that existing theory must always be considered in research design.

Research limitations/implications

The contribution of this study adds empirical evidence to the ongoing debate regarding the “emerging” role of research impact within the UK; to some extent generally, and with respect to the CMR community more specifically.


The empirical findings are entirely novel.



Holt, G.D., Goulding, J. and Akintoye, A. (2014), "Interrelationships between theory and research impact: Views from a survey of UK academics", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 674-696.



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