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

Yi Grace Ji, Weiting Tao, Hyejoon Rim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-349
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 10 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. part of Springer Nature.


  • Bibliometric network analysis
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Invisible college


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