A bibliometric view on the use of contingency theory in project management research

Contingency theory has influenced organization theory since the 1950s. Project management research has only recently started to consider context factors. In this area, applications of contingency theory still represent a fragmented field with a nonuniform use of terminology. Fully utilizing the contingency theory approach requires a systematic foundation. The authors present an overview of contingency theory in both permanent and temporary organizations. In a bibliometric study based on 1,622 articles from four academic project management journals, this paper identifies dominating authors, prevalent keywords, and different focal areas in project contingency theory as well as the most researched project types. In addition, the paper provides an overview of the respective contingency factors considered, noting that leadership is a highly important contingency factor in projects. It outlines which facets of contingency theory have been applied to project management research and exposes areas where more research is needed. It shows how there has been an increase in contingency in project management since 2002, with North American and European authors dominating the field. The paper also explains the project contingency theory coauthorship network. It concludes with a call for further research on the effects of contingency factors such as culture, social networks, and interpersonal relationships on project work. Accompanying the paper is an appendix listing the relevant keywords that were used for the literature search.
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