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Crowdsourcing: a comprehensive literature review

Mokter Hossain (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland)
Ilkka Kauranen (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland)

Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1753-8297

Article publication date: 16 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore the development of crowdsourcing literature.


This study is a comprehensive review of 346 articles on crowdsourcing. Both statistical and contents analyses were conducted in this paper.


ISI listed journal articles, non-ISI listed journal articles and conference articles have had nearly the same contribution in crowdsourcing literature. Articles published in non-ISI listed journals have had an essential role in the initial theory development related to crowdsourcing. Scholars from the USA have authored approximately the same number of articles as scholars from all the European countries combined. Scholars from developing countries have been more relatively active in authoring conference articles than journal articles. Only very recently, top-tier journals have engaged in publishing on crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing has proven to be beneficial in many tasks, but the extant literature does not give much help to practitioners in capturing value from crowdsourcing. Despite understanding that the motivations of crowds are crucial when planning crowdsourcing activities, the various motivations in different contexts have not been explored sufficiently. A major concern has been the quality and accuracy of information that has been gathered through crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing bears a lot of unused potential. For example, it can increase employment opportunities to low-income people in developing countries. On the other hand, more should be known of fair ways to organize crowdsourcing so that solution seekers do not get a chance to exploit individuals committing to provide solutions.

Research limitations/implications

The literature included in the study is extensive, but an all-inclusive search for articles was limited to only nine selected publishers. However, in addition to the articles retrieved from the nine selected publishers, 52 highly cited articles were also included from other publishers.

Practical implications

Crowdsourcing has much unused potential, and the use of crowdsourcing is increasing rapidly. The study provides a thematic review of various applications of crowdsourcing.


The study is the first of its kind to explore the development of crowdsourcing literature, discussing the loci and foci of extant articles and listing applications of crowdsourcing. Successful applications of crowdsourcing include idea generation, microtasking, citizen science, public participation, wikies, open source software and citizen journalism.



The authors are grateful to the Finnish Cultural Foundation for financial support.


Hossain, M. and Kauranen, I. (2015), "Crowdsourcing: a comprehensive literature review", Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 2-22.



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