Increasing the rigor of grounded theory research - a review of the SCM literature

Nikola Denk, Lutz Kaufmann, Craig Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study aims to examine the quality of the extant supply chain management (SCM) research which has utilized a grounded theory (GT) approach. The purpose of this research is to better understand the current state of the field, by introducing and highlighting the distinctions between the Glaserian and Straussian schools of thought and examining the extent to which existing SCM research has either complied with or diverged from the six dimensions which distinguish the two schools of thought. By doing so, it aims to provide guidelines to both reviewers and researchers who might use GT in future studies, with the goal of improving the validity and rigor of GT research. Design/methodology/approach: The method underlying this paper followed the steps of a systematic literature review process. GT works within leading SCM journals were examined to determine the extent to which they complied with the methodological tenets of GT. Findings: The systematic literature review shows that, while the use of GT in the field of SCM appears to be increasing over time, over half of the investigated studies deviate from the chosen school of thought by not adhering to the six dimensions distinct to Glaser's or Strauss's approach to GT. Research limitations/implications: This study calls for researchers to revisit the methodological roots of GT in order to improve the validity of such studies and ultimately the acceptance of the GT methodology by the broader community of SCM researchers. Transparency must be increased with regard to the chosen school of thought and the research process itself. GT is an appropriate methodology for investigating behavioral and social aspects of organizations and inter-organizational relationships, and thus should be utilized more frequently in future SCM research. Originality/value: The paper aids researchers in understanding the methodological tenets of grounded theory and the divergence of schools of thought within this methodology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-763
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Grounded theory
  • Literature review
  • Qualitative research
  • Research
  • Supply chain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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