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Content analysis within intangible assets disclosure: a structured literature review

Francisca Castilla-Polo (Department of Financial Economy and Accounting, University of Jaén, Jaén, Spain)
Consuelo Ruiz-Rodríguez (Universidad de Jaén, Jaén, Spain)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




In this paper, the authors analyze the use of content analysis in disclosing voluntarily information on intangible assets, the intangible assets disclosures (IAD). The purpose of this paper is to conduct a structured literature review (SLR) that assesses the possibilities and limitations of content analysis.


To that end, the authors analyze the existing literature on the topic in the main international databases. In all, 74 empirical articles utilizing content analysis as a research methodology for IAD were reviewed. Regarding the selection of sources, the authors should indicate that the SLR performed includes academic studies published in journals or presented at conferences and that are always subject to a double process of anonymous review.


The obtained results indicate that despite the frequent use of content analysis in studies on IAD, its use does not meet all expectations.

Research limitations/implications

The study synthesizes the research on content analysis for the case of information on intangible assets, offering an updated and global framework for future researchers through the SLR.

Practical implications

Among other problems, the authors found its excessive emphasis on the amount disclosed in the annual report, ignoring other reports in which more information regarding intangible assets is available, such as in the case of the sustainability reports. Furthermore, the use of very different coding systems and its exclusive use without being combined with other methodologies are detected. These aspects affect the quality problems of the sources used, which directly results in the utility of the evidenced findings.

Social implications

These conclusions allow the authors to conclude on the need to open different lines of study that review the use of content analysis in this topic.


The work focuses on the quality of disclosures more so than on the quantity, offering a critical view that summarizes the utility of the employment of content analysis for this type of disclosure and its implications for future research on this topic. Despite previous studies, the authors highlight the new insights revealed from IAD research, especially since the seminal paper of Dumay and Cai (2014).



Castilla-Polo, F. and Ruiz-Rodríguez, C. (2017), "Content analysis within intangible assets disclosure: a structured literature review", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 506-543.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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