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Published in: Journal of Business Ethics 2/2022

10-02-2021 | Original Paper

Theoretical Insights of CSR Research in Communication from 1980 to 2018: A Bibliometric Network Analysis

Authors: Yi Grace Ji, Weiting Tao, Hyejoon Rim

Published in: Journal of Business Ethics | Issue 2/2022

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Abstract

Communication, as a discipline that generates a rich body of literature on CSR, has become a critical contributor to CSR knowledge in social science. However, limited research exists to understand how CSR knowledge is constructed and diffused in the discipline. This study thus intends to unpack the knowledge construction process of CSR research in the communication discipline from a network perspective. Invisible college was adopted as the conceptual framework. Article and theory/concept networks were constructed with 290 peer-reviewed articles from 61 communication journals between 1980 and 2018. Results showed that in the past four decades, CSR literature in communication has been growing and maturing, as evidenced by the increasing volume and diversity of theories and concepts applied. Furthermore, this body of literature tends to gravitate toward certain selected groups of theories and concepts, resulting in denser article networks over time. Our findings reflected a substantial influence of management (e.g., stakeholder theory, legitimacy theory) and psychological perspectives (e.g., attribution theory) on CSR research in communication. Additionally, the results showed that public relations concepts and theories (e.g., relationship management theory) have influenced CSR research across different communication subfields such as advertising and organization communication. The study expects the continuation of the plurality of voices as to how communication researchers will approach CSR and what specific topics may gain popularity in future research.
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Footnotes
1
These keywords primarily included corporate social responsibility, CSR, cause-related marketing, CRM, corporate social marketing, corporate philanthropy, community volunteering, socially responsible business practices, advocacy advertising, green advertising, and corporate sustainability.
 
2
A close examination of these 19 articles revealed that some dated back to the 1980s when CSR started to gain attention from communication practitioners and scholars. Those articles primarily focused on discussing the professional practice rather than the theoretical development of CSR (e.g., Spitzer 1981; Tilson and Vance 1985). Because of the practical orientation of these early articles, no theory or concept was substantively cited. In addition, some other studies, despite being published during the 2000s or 2010s, were presented in the form of “Research in Brief” or “Short Communication.” They did not include a comprehensive review of literature or elaboration on theoretical frameworks, and thus did not substantively cite any concept or theory as part of their conceptual foundations (e.g., Greer & Moreland 2007; Kovacs 2006; Takano 2013).
 
3
Articles published in TP1 did not cite any concept or theory in a substantive manner. Therefore, no article network or concept/theory network was formed. Both Tables 1 and 2 reported results from TP2, 3, and 4.
Table 1
Network-level metrics of the article co-citation network
Network metrics
Time Period 2
Time Period 3
Time Period 4
All
1991–2000
2001–2010
2011–2018
1980–2018
Density
0.14
0.27
0.40
0.35
Transitivity
1.00
0.88
0.94
0.93
Diameter
1.00
6.00
5.00
5.00
Communities
6.00
9.00
73.00
90.00
Ave. degree centrality
1.50
12.00
68.70
81.54
Ave. betweenness centrality
0.00
15.18
60.03
89.01
Table 2
Network-level metrics of the concept/theory co-citation network
Network metrics
Time Period 2
Time Period 3
Time Period 4
All
1991–2000
2001–2010
2011–2018
1980–2018
Density
0.16
0.11
0.14
0.15
Transitivity
0.75
0.32
0.32
0.30
Diameter
2.00
7.00
4.00
5.00
Communities
4.00
6.00
29.00
36.00
Ave. degree centrality
1.40
3.78
9.30
10.76
Ave. betweenness centrality
0.10
18.00
40.23
44.54
 
4
Although the construct of CSR was used as one of the keywords when retrieving journal articles, the authors included the construct in the in-text citation level network analysis for several reasons. First, the inclusion of CSR allowed us to examine structural information about how theories and concepts were connected surrounding the CSR, which was a primary construct of the study. Second, the study’s purpose was not to demonstrate the frequency of theories or concepts used in CSR-related articles. Unlike the meta-literature review or qualitative review approaches, this bibliometric network study focused on unveiling the invisible college based on the interconnectedness of theories and concepts that were relevant to the area of inquiry. Therefore, the inclusion of CSR as a central concept in the analysis was inherent to demonstrate the network structure. It is noteworthy that to some extent, the study findings were a direct result of including CSR as a search keyword and as a node/edge in the two co-citation networks.
 
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Metadata
Title
Theoretical Insights of CSR Research in Communication from 1980 to 2018: A Bibliometric Network Analysis
Authors
Yi Grace Ji
Weiting Tao
Hyejoon Rim
Publication date
10-02-2021
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Journal of Business Ethics / Issue 2/2022
Print ISSN: 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN: 1573-0697
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-021-04748-w

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