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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


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.

Bibliographic note

Publisher Copyright: © 2020. All Rights Reserved. Copyright: Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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


  • Reflexivity, Research note, Research objectives, Research questions