IT outsourcing research from 1992 to 2013: A literature review based on main path analysis


Applying main path analysis, this paper investigates the IT outsourcing (ITO) field by identifying a set of papers that have played a central role in the development of the field and the major research themes emerging from the citation patterns. We selected the top 120,000 main paths from 6.45 million main paths among 798 ITO papers, resulting in a data set of 280 papers that represent the most important nodes supporting ITO knowledge flow. Based on our analysis of the multiple main paths, twelve major research themes emerged: ITO motivations, ITO decisions, ITO risks, debate around transaction cost theory, client-vendor relationship, the vendor's perspective, psychological and formal contracts, ASP, BPO, opensourcing and crowdsourcing, offshore outsourcing, and multisourcing. Finally, we discussed future directions of ITO research based on our findings. Our study is among the few studies that have used bibliometric analysis methods to analyze and visualize the citation network characterizing the rich body of ITO literature. The main path analysis precisely identified and visualized the major knowledge flow in the evolution of ITO research and major ITO research streams, thus providing an in-depth understanding of ITO research in the last 20 years.

Publication Title

Information and Management