Smart Contracts on the Blockchain – A Bibliometric Analysis and Review

48 Pages Posted: 8 May 2020 Last revised: 15 Sep 2020

Date Written: April 15, 2020


Smart contracts are decentrally anchored scripts on blockchains or similar infrastructures that allow the transparent execution of predefined processes. Using smart contracts, assets like money become programmable, which opens up previously inaccessible application potential. To date, smart contracts control billions in value. This paper analyzes 468 peer-reviewed articles on the topic of smart contracts and their 20,188 references, providing a summary and analysis of the current state of research on smart contracts. Using exploratory factor analysis for co- citation analysis, we identify six different strands of research that concern technical, social, economic and legal disciplines: I) technical foundations, development and open questions of blockchain networks, II) blockchain and smart contracts for the Internet of Things, III) smart contract standardization, verification and security, IV) blockchain and smart contracts for the disruption of existing processes and industries, V) potentials and challenges of smart contracts, and VI) smart contracts and the law. The interrelations between these groups are visualized using social network analysis. We thus obtain a structured overview of the main strands of research concerning smart contracts, their development over time, the relevance of smart contract platforms in research, and conceptual connections between publications and discourses. The results offer researchers and practitioners a substantial basis for their work on smart contracts.

Keywords: Distributed ledger, Ethereum, Informetric analysis, Internet of Things, Social network analysis

JEL Classification: C38

Suggested Citation

Ante, Lennart, Smart Contracts on the Blockchain – A Bibliometric Analysis and Review (April 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Lennart Ante (Contact Author)

Blockchain Research Lab ( email )

Colonnaden 72
Hamburg, 22303

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