Formulating and clarifying the research topic: insights and a guide for the production management research community

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Paper aims: To provide guidance on formulating and clarifying research questions from abstract and broad ideas. Originality: Reports of empirical research invariably offer limited insights on the opaque process of developing research questions, aims and objectives. Moreover, we are not aware of a similar discussion within this journal, as well as other management journals. Research method: This is a theoretical paper. Main findings: Among other factors, our discussion highlights the role of theory and self-reflection in the process of research topic refinement. We consider the nature and types of theoretical contribution a research project can make, highlighting some common reasons why journal submissions are often rejected due to failure to provide a theoretical contribution. Implications for theory and practice: Greater reflexivity in this process should ultimately lead to clearer theoretical contributions and more manageable research topics, with greater practical and societal relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Reflexivity
  • Research note
  • Research objectives
  • Research questions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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