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Evolution of modularity literature: a 25-year bibliometric analysis

Thomas Frandsen (Department of Operations Management, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to review and analyze the modularity literature to identify the established and emerging perspectives.


A systematic literature search and review was conducted through the use of bibliometrics and network analysis. The analysis identified structure within the literature, which revealed how the research area evolved between 1990 and 2015. Based on this search, the paper establishes the basis for analyzing the structure of modularity literature.


Factors were identified within the literature, demonstrating how it has evolved from a primary focus on the modularity of products to a broader view of the applicability of modularity. Within the last decade, numerous research areas have emerged within the broader area of modularity. Through core-periphery analysis, eight emerging sub-research areas are identified, of which one is the study of modularity in the context of services.

Research limitations/implications

Although bibliographic methods are limited as they are based on common citations within the field, they enable systematic analysis and the identification of structure within an emergent field of research. Such analysis has implications by for a growing and inter-disciplinary field like modularity by providing overview and suggesting future directions.


This paper contributes by conducting a systematic review based on the citation structure within modularity and identifies the established and emerging areas of research on modularity.



The author would like to thank the guest editors of the special issue as well as the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions to earlier versions of this manuscript. The author would also like to acknowledge the research support provided by Lauren Pflueger.


Frandsen, T. (2017), "Evolution of modularity literature: a 25-year bibliometric analysis", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 703-747.



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