The View from Giants’ Shoulders: Developing Theory with Theory-Mining Systematic Literature Reviews

1 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2015 Last revised: 18 Jun 2021

Date Written: December 18, 2015


Although numerous guides exist for building theory, these do not provide much help in carefully gathering material from past research that can serve as material for new theory development. Moreover, although there are numerous guides for conducting literature reviews, none focuses squarely on theory development. We fill this dual shortage by identifying and describing theory-mining reviews, literature reviews that explicitly extract and synthesize the elements of theory from primary studies. Our citation analysis finds that such reviews in information systems have been more highly cited than other kinds of reviews, whether authored by senior or by junior scholars. We present detailed guidelines for conducting a systematic literature review (also known as a systematic review) that develops three different kinds of theory-mining reviews: scoping out a theoretical landscape, contending for a new theoretical model, or rigorously testing a proposed theory. These guidelines are particularly tailored for information systems research, but are sufficiently general to be readily applicable in a wide range of social sciences, so that researchers can stand on the shoulders of foregoing scholarly giants to see farther with new, insightful theories.

Keywords: Theory development, theory building, theory mining, theory landscaping, theory contention, theory contending, theory testing, systematic reviews, literature reviews, information systems research, citation analysis

Suggested Citation

Okoli, Chitu, The View from Giants’ Shoulders: Developing Theory with Theory-Mining Systematic Literature Reviews (December 18, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Chitu Okoli (Contact Author)

SKEMA Business School ( email )

Grand Paris Campus
5 quai Marcel Dassault, Suresnes
Paris, 92150


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