Since the 1960s, research on Purchasing and Supply Management (PSM) has grown substantially, but recently various scholars have challenged the actual progress and coherence of the field. In such critiques, the underlying, dominant view of PSM research is that it constitutes a separate academic discipline. In contrast, this paper offers an alternative perspective that views PSM as a multidisciplinary field of research, drawing from Operations Management, Marketing, and Strategy & Organization as reference disciplines. Adopting this perspective, we conduct a review of 2,522 purchasing and supply management publications in a multidisciplinary set of 18 high-impact management journals, published in the period 1995-2014. The review analyses how PSM research has developed over time; quantitatively and content-wise, in terms of the topics and theories addressed. This analysis demonstrates the diversity across the three reference disciplines and the specialist PSM journals, with distinct features of each journal group in terms of the most popular topics or theories. Still, there is a high degree of overlap among the top-five topics of each of the journal groups in any given lustrum period. Transaction Cost Economics is the dominant theory in each journal group, and of the 17 theories identified, only four have been applied by just one journal group. Thus, we conclude that PSM research is characterised by ‘unity in diversity’: “E Pluribus Unum”, and offer recommendations how this multidisciplinary composition of the field can be leveraged in future research.

Purchasing and supply management, procurement, discipline, multidisciplinary research, literature review, bibliometric study,
Journal of Purchasing & Supply Management
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

Wynstra, J.Y.F, Suurmond, R, & Nullmeier, F.M.E. (2019). Purchasing and supply management as a multidisciplinary research field. Journal of Purchasing & Supply Management, 25(5). doi:10.1016/j.pursup.2019.100578