The Role of Theory in Supply Chain Management: A Comprehensive Review

Dane Paul Pflueger, Andreas Wieland, Christopher Chapman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


This paper contributes to contemporary debates over the apparent tradeoff between relevance and rigor in supply chain management (SCM) research. Building on Suddaby (2015), we advance the case for explicit and reflexive engagement with a diversity of paradigmatic choices and their alternatives as part of a healthy system of knowledge production. Based on an analysis of recent articles published across twelve SCM journals, we find a diversity and strength in research across a stylized dichotomy between modelling and empiricism, and between work adopting both quantitative and qualitative methods. Whilst there is great strength in all of these positivist endeavors however, our analysis illuminates a scarcity of work that treats theory as a normative tool for fashioning lenses that allow us to analyze the world as it might be. Drawing from examples of interpretive work from adjacent disciplines we elaborate the possibilities of this role of theory to complement the strength of the existing system of knowledge production. Specifically, it is argued that through its more explicit engagement with values, interpretive research can help to support the relevance of all SCM research. This is partly through the introduction of new forms of questions that arise from an interpretivist paradigm. Perhaps more importantly, however, greater paradigmatic pluralism would add to the reflexive capacity of the field also in relation to existing forms of questions addressed through positivistic work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAcademy of Management Proceedings 2019
EditorsGuclu Atinc
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2019: Understanding the Inclusive Organization - Boston, United States
Duration: 9 Aug 201913 Aug 2019
Conference number: 79


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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