How to Advance Theory through Literature Reviews in Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Christian F. Durach*, Joakim Kembro, Andreas Wieland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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The discipline's most common uses for literature reviews—identifying gaps, developing research agendas, and categorizing the literature—too often fail to challenge, change or advance theoretical perspectives. The authors offer guidance to theorization through literature reviews. The key to theory advancement is consistency between the state of theory and the chosen review type.
A conceptual approach is taken. The authors identify shortcomings in literature reviews of logistics and supply chain management (L&SCM) research and develop a framework to aid theorization from literature.
FindingsLiterature review types are categorized as inductive theory building, contextualized explanations, theory testing and interpretive sensemaking. The authors argue that the effectiveness of a review type depends on the prior state of theory, which ranges from nascent, to intermediate, to mature. The authors propose the interpretive sensemaking review as a novel review type rooted in the interpretive paradigm.Practical implicationsThis study should be of immediate interest and value to logistics and supply chain management scholars—as well as scholars in other fields—because it offers a pathway to theory development through literature reviews. Appropriate applications of the proposed review types will result in more comprehensive theories.Originality/valueThis article lays down arguments for the need to change the way L&SCM scholars use literature reviews. It extends earlier work from the authors (Durach et al., 2017; A New Paradigm for Systematic Literature Reviews in Supply Chain Management, Journal of Supply Chain Management) by outlining four review types, and offering further insights to theorization, as is typically the goal in the synthesis step of literature reviews.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1090-1107
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 25 June 2021.


  • Literature reviews
  • Theory
  • Logistics
  • Supply chain

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