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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF

PROJECT
MANAGEMENT
International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184
www.elsevier.com/locate/ijproman

Uncovering the trends in project management: Journal emphases


over the last 10 years
Lynn Crawford, Julien Pollack *, David England
Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, Building 6, level 5, University of Technology, Sydney, 702 Harris Street, Ultimo NSW 2007, Australia

Received 12 November 2004; received in revised form 12 July 2005; accepted 14 October 2005

Abstract

The field of project management continues to develop in response to changing emphases in the management community and the
demands of new project management application areas. This paper uncovers the trends of emphasis within the project management lit-
erature over the period 1994–2003, by analysing articles in the International Journal of Project Management and the Project Management
Journal. Trends identified in this study are then compared to trends of emphasis identified in a variety of previous studies of changes to
the field. These results are then synthesised to provide a overall impression of how the field is changing.
 2005 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Research trends; Text analysis

1. Introduction 2. Previous research

Project management, as a profession and area of It is arguable whether project management is applied
research, continues to grow and develop. In response to consistently and generically. Crawford [1] has found varia-
project management being applied in new industries, coun- tion in project management knowledge and practices
tries and application areas, the demands on project man- between industries, countries and application areas. Due
agement continue to change. These changes alter the way to this variation in understanding and application of pro-
project management is perceived, the commonly accepted ject management, it is useful to understand which kinds
views of what it is to practice project management, and of projects dominate the literature on project management.
the way the field is represented in the literature. However, it is difficult to establish the conclusive distri-
A variety of previous studies have already examined bution of project size or practice over industry sectors, as
changes to the field, using many different approaches, find- responses to surveys are subject to sample bias. The influ-
ing diverse and sometimes contradictory results. This study ence of industry bias is identified by Evaristo and van
reconciles these different results and adds new findings, Fenema [2, p. 276], who state that ‘‘. . .the current knowl-
examining the changing development of the field, as repre- edge based on the management of projects emanates from
sented by keywords identified in the last 10 years of the large capital construction projects responsible for only 10%
International Journal of Project Management (IJPM) and of the projects.’’ Betts and Lansley [3, p. 211] found that in
the Project Management Journal (PMJ). Tendencies in project management ‘‘. . .by far the most frequently
the literature are identified, which indicate the future direc- addressed industry was construction, followed by papers
tion of the profession. relating to the information and service sector and the pro-
cess industries.’’
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +61 2 9514 8727/8754; fax: +61 2 9514
In a survey by Pinto and Slevin [4, p. 70], it was found
8875. that the construction industry constituted ‘‘. . .44% of the
E-mail address: Julien.Pollack@uts.edu.au (J. Pollack). sample.’’ The two main industry sectors identified in a

0263-7863/$30.00  2005 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.


doi:10.1016/j.ijproman.2005.10.005
176 L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184

study by Themistocleous and Wearne [5, p. 11] were be seen between the forces influencing the general manage-
construction (46%); and, services (30%). The two main ment and project management communities.
industry sectors in a survey by Zobel and Wearne [6, p. Many of the past management fads have had merit.
37] were found to be: services (41%); and construction While ‘‘. . .there are valid aspects to most of these ideas,
(23%). By contrast, the influence of sample choice becomes what is wrong is the piecemeal fashion in which they are
clear when the above industry distributions are compared implemented. . .’’ [14, p. 17]. Because of the superficial or
to research by White and Fortune [7, p. 3] which found that transitory way in which many past management ideas have
over 25% of respondents were from the IT industry, 8% been applied, there has been little chance for in-depth
were from engineering and 2% were construction. learning regarding their efficacy. ‘‘Not surprisingly, ideas
Regardless of the ÔtrueÕ breakdown of project manage- acquired with ease are discarded with ease. Fads ebb, flow
ment amongst all industry sectors, it is clear from these – and even change by 180 degrees’’ [13, p. 20]. Similar
studies that project management practice is heavily influ- changes can be seen within the project management
enced by research emanating from the construction indus- literature.
try. If, as Evaristo and van Fenema [2, p. 276] have found,
this sector represents only a small percent of the total num- 3. Recent changes to the profession
ber of projects executed, then there is an associated risk
that research conclusions may be unquestioningly and Change in the practice of project management does not
invalidly transferred between industry sectors. continue at a steady pace. The rate at which new ideas are
In order to understand the field of project management introduced to a field can be related to a variety of factors.
as it currently exists, it can be useful to understand how it Pascale [13, p. 18] links the consumption rate of manage-
has changed over time. As a field, project management is ment fads to times of sagging fortunes and managerial
regularly facing new challenges, as the tools, methods panic. However, the introduction of new ideas to a field
and approaches to management that comprise the disci- can also be related to expansion into new application areas
pline are applied to different areas, for different ends, in dif- and inclusion of new practitioners, who bring new perspec-
ferent cultures. As an ‘‘emerging profession’’ [8, p. 3], the tives and challenge established patterns of behaviour. For
field continues to grow and adapt, and can be said to have instance, in 2000, Urli and Urli [15, p. 33] indicated that
come along way from its origins in the 1950s, as academics the ‘‘. . .field of project management has undergone very
and practitioners add new insight to the already wide range important developments during the last 10 years. . .’’
of practice options. involving the extension of project management into new
During the 1950s, network analysis and planning tech- fields of practice.
niques, like PERT and CPM, formed the focus of develop- Seven studies stand out as relevant to an analysis of
ment in project management. In the 1960s, these techniques trends in the field of project management. Betts and Lans-
continued to be popular in the construction industry, but ley [3] examined the first 10 years worth of articles in IJPM,
Cost/Scheduling Control System Criteria (C/SCSC) gained using a system of weighted classification, covering the years
popularity within the defence and aerospace industries. 1983–1992. Themistocleous and Wearne [5] have provided
Developments in the field of project management in the a similar study, examining the frequency of project man-
1960s also included the formation of two major profes- agement topics between 1984 and 1998. Their study centres
sional associations [9]. on IJPM, with limited comparison to PMJ. Zobel and
Shenhar [10] notes a focus on teamwork as a defining Wearne [6] used the same method as Themistocleous and
feature of project management in the 1970s, while Stretton Wearne [5] to examine topic coverage in four project man-
[11] notes an emphasis on breakdown structures and sys- agement conferences between 1996 and 1998. Morris, Patel
tems concepts. The 1980s were typified by a focus on pro- and Wearne [16] have also completed a survey of interest,
ject organisation, project risk [10], the project front end, documenting the review of, and possible changes to, the
external influences to projects, and initial work on the UK Association for Project ManagementÕs Body of
development of project management standards [12]. Knowledge. Morris [17] provides a portrait of contempo-
Already a wide variety of topics can be seen to have rary project management research by examining the most
influenced the field, some of which have left a lasting popular topics in papers and book reviews from IJPM,
impression, while others have risen and dissipated as PMJ and PM Network between 1990 and 1999.
momentary areas of enquiry. Pascale [13, p. 19] analyses Urli and Urli [15] used a ‘‘scientometric method’’ of text
changes to the general management field since World analysis to analyse changes to the field. This approach was
War II, and notes that the idea of the professional manager used to identify tendencies for association of keywords in
relies on premise of the relevance of generic concepts that all papers identified as relevant to project management in
underlie management in all situations. Managerial tech- the electronic database ABI-INFORM, published within
niques have become a ‘‘packaged goods industry’’, with the period 1987–1996. Their study is unique in that their
the consequence that management techniques are only method purportedly elicits ‘‘. . .the most significant themes
applied superficially or while fashionable, often only sur- as defined by academics themselves rather than by an a pri-
viving for a short period. A great deal of similarity can ori classification’’ [15, p. 34]. Kloppenborg and Opfer also
L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184 177

examined tendencies within the field of project manage- in Table 1 are taken directly from the relevant authors
ment, looking for past, present and future trends. Their work. Four different kinds of trend are identified in these
study purportedly analysed ‘‘. . .the vast majority of pub- different papers: topics which are identified as of strong
licly accessible project management research that has been interest to the field of project management; topics which
published in the English language between 1960 and 1999’’ are not of interest; those topics of increasing interest; and
[18, p. 52]. those of decreasing interest.
Although these studies examine different time periods, What immediately stands out in cursory examination of
using different methods, comparison of the results received Table 1 is the variation in themes identified. Conclusions
is interesting. The most significant trends identified in each drawn from this might be that the interests of project man-
of these above six papers have been identified and tabu- agers have changed over the different periods studied. This,
lated in Table 1. The category titles that have been used however, does not explain the differences in results for

Table 1
Comparison of identified trends in project management
Dates covered by study Themistocleous Zobel and Urli and Urli Betts and Lansley Morris et al. Kloppenborg and Morris
and Wearne [5] Wearne [6] [15] [3] [16] Opfer [18] [17]
1984–1998 1996–1998 1987–1996 1983–1992 Pre 2000 1960–1999 1990–1999
Communication ››
Competency ›› X
Context/environment X X
Contracts X
Cost X
Financial management X
Goals, strategies ·
HR projects ››
Human factors X
Industrial relations X
Information management X X ›› X
Information systems X
Innovation ››
Integrative management ·
Leadership ›› X X
Legal awareness X
Life cycles X
Management by projects ››
Managers X
Monitor and control X X X
Operations research X
Optimising X
Organisational change ››
Performance ›› ››
PERT ››
Planning X X flfl X
Procurement/purchasing X X X
Program management X
Project close · ·
Project start-up · · ››
Project organisation X Xflfl
Quality X›› X X
Requirements management ·
Risk X X X X
Safety, health, environment X
Scheduling X›› X
Stakeholder management ››
Standards/certification ››
Stress ››
Success criteria ›› · X
Systems management ·
Teamwork X X
Time X X
Table key: X – An interest in the topic area.
· – A lack of interest in the topic area.
›› – An increasing interest in the topic area.
flfl – A decreasing interest in the topic area.
178 L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184

studies that cover overlapping periods. Other possible, but guistics focusing on the computational analysis of corpora.
unverifiable, reasons for differences in identified themes of Keyword Analysis identifies keywords in texts by compar-
significance might include variation between sample ing a subject corpus to a larger normative corpus, which
groups, differences in sampling method and differences in acts as a base line for the study. Using this method multiple
the ways that themes were identified. separate corpora can be compared to a single normative
Indeed, different opinions about the nature of project corpus [25, p. 1]. Different lists of keyword created can then
management abound in the literature. For instance, Urli be created, and can act as the basis for comparison of the
and Urli [15, p. 40] identified organisational change as of subject corpora.
growing interest to project management, while Stretton In this study, four subject corpora were used to create
noted that the literature ‘‘. . .has surprisingly little material keyword lists, each one being representative of a five year
on organisational change processes, and certainly no uni- portion of either IJPM or PMJ. Subject corpora were com-
versally accepted guidelines for undertaking organisational posed of the titles and abstracts of articles appearing in the
changes as projects’’ [19, p. 1]. These contradictory obser- different journals. Book reviews were excluded from this
vations were both published in 2000. compilation. Abstracts and titles of journal articles are gen-
Urli and Urli [15, p. 35] also identified Operations erally highly indicative of the content of articles. By con-
Research as the main theme in project management. How- trast, it was found that using the full text of articles
ever their observations about the significance of Operations introduced the possibility of repetitiously worded articles
Research are thrown into doubt as none of the other six distorting results. Furthermore, abstracts tend to be of a
mentions Operations Research. Furthermore, a search for similar length and as such there is less likelihood of the
ÔOperations ResearchÕ or ÔOperational ResearchÕ in elec- results being skewed due to an entry being of exceptional
tronic copies of the International Journal of Project Man- length.
agement reveals only three references to either of these Five year periods were chosen as the basis of this study
terms [20–22]. A possible explanation of Urli and UrliÕs so as to align more clearly with previous studies. Betts and
[15] claim concerning the significance of Operations Lansley [3], Themistocleous and Wearne [5] and Urli and
Research to project management involves links between Urli [15] analyse trend data in five year time periods. Five
project management, Systems Engineering and Systems year periods also allowed for the accumulation of sufficient
Analysis [23] and the systems field in general [24]. When data to indicate a trend.
read in the light of an observation by Daniel that: ‘‘Systems A variety of Keyword Analysis techniques can be iden-
engineering or systems analysis . . .is now regarded as indis- tified in the Corpus Linguistics literature: v2; log-likeli-
tinguishable in practice from operational research’’ [21, p. hood; t-test; the Mutual Information (MI) statistic; and
79], links identified by Urli and Urli [15] between project the Mann–Whitney test. Of these, the t-test was discounted
management and Operations Research become apparent. as it requires samples of the same size. This constraint
Comparison of the seven studies does, however, reveal could not be met by the samples of journal content, as
some topics that are consistently regarded as significant. the length of journals varies from issue to issue and year
Topics that at least two studies identify as significant to year. The t-test also requires normal distribution of
include: context/environment; information management; words, ‘‘. . .which is not in general the case for word
leadership; monitoring and controlling; performance; plan- counts’’ [26, p. 104]. MI was discounted as it overemphas-
ning; procurement; project organisation; quality; risk; and ises rare terms [26, p. 105], which would be common in an
scheduling. industry such as project management, which has developed
As is implied by the variation in the results of these dif- a specialised vocabulary. The Mann–Whitney test was not
ferent studies, the trends in the field of project management used as it ignores word frequencies [25, p. 2], which are use-
found by a study is partially dependant on the way ful in understanding the role that words play in a text.
researchers look for those trends. Different research meth- The log-likelihood and v2 tests were both identified as
odologies are like different lenses through which we can see appropriate tests for identifying keywords in this study.
the world, no one of which gives an exclusive view of the These tests are similar, in that the v2 and log-likelihood
truth. Rather, an idea of the objective truth can be devel- tests are two statistics on the same ‘‘. . .continuum defined
oped by triangulating the results of different studies, con- by the power-divergence family of statistics’’ [25, p. 2].
ducted by different researchers. In the remainder of this Both of these tests can be used to produce lists of words
paper, we uncover more recent trends, then by building that are considered to be keywords, based on the analysis
upon the work of previous authors, we provide a synthesis of the relative frequencies of words. These tests also pro-
of trends in project management between 1983 and 2003. duce an index which can be used to indicate how key par-
ticular words are to a text. Results in this study were
4. Research methodology generated using both methods. The v2 test was finally cho-
sen due to greater correspondence of results with a natural
This paper examines trends in the project management language understanding of keyness in a text.
literature using Keyword Analysis, a technique developed The v2 algorithm identifies keywords based on the com-
in the field of Corpus Linguistics, a branch of Applied Lin- parison of the relative frequencies of words in a subject and
L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184 179

normative corpus. The normative corpus provides a base- written in English. It is recognised that using a British cor-
line frequency for word use. Words in the subject corpus pus might have introduced some bias into the analysis of
identified as unusually frequent are tagged as potential key- the texts, as IJPM is published in the UK. However, as
words. This approach tends to emphasise words not com- no truly international corpus of written English existed at
mon in general English, such as acronyms and words the time of writing, this bias was unavoidable.
which could be considered to be project management jar- The change in the number of articles in IJPM and PMJ
gon. WordSmith Tools [27,28], an integrated suite of pro- over the sample period is represented in Fig. 1. The number
grams for analysing how words behave in texts, was of words in each of the sample years is represented in
chosen as the text analysis software for this study. Fig. 2. From these, it can be seen that both the number
The normative corpus chosen in this study was the Brit- of articles and the sample size vary significantly over the
ish National Corpus (BNC), a 100 million word collection sample period. The v2 algorithm was also chosen because
of samples of written and spoken English, from a wide results generated using this algorithm are not affected by
variety of sources, designed to be representative of current variations in sample size.
British English [29]. As the normative corpus is in English, For each of the four five year subject corpora, the v2
this study is limited to analysing project management texts algorithm identified in excess of 500 keywords. However,

Fig. 1. Number of articles by year.

10000

9000
IJPM
No. of words in samples

8000
PMJ
7000

6000

5000

4000

3000

2000

1000

1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Year

Fig. 2. Number of words in sample by year.


180 L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184

due to the limitations of the v2 algorithm, and its tendency Table 2


to overestimate the keyness of terms with a frequency of Topics and categories of topics (based on [31, p. 4])
five or less [25, p. 2] [30, p. 25], some low frequency key- Category of topic Topic
words were discarded. Lists of the top 200 keywords for Cost Management  Cost Management
each subject corpora were used as the basis of analysis. Cross Unit Outcomes  Estimating
Identified keywords were analysed for correspondence  Integration Management
with, or indication of attention paid within a corpus to,  Project Context/Environment
one of 48 project management topics and 18 categories of  Project Life Cycle/Phasing
topics (see Table 2). These categories and topics were iden- Finalisation  Project Closeout/Finalisation
tified in association with the development of global perfor-  Testing, Commission, Handover and
mance based standards for project management personnel. Acceptance
Their development is documented elsewhere [31, p. 4], and Interpersonal  Conflict Management
is based on topic lists used by previous analyses [5,6] of  Leadership
project management trends.  Negotiation
 Problem Solving
However, the v2 algorithm is a statistical technique, and  Teamwork
only produces a list of words which might be of significance
Legal Issues  Legal Issues
in a text. Each of the top 200 keywords, for each of the sub-
 Safety, Health and Environment
ject corpora, once identified, were examined for the way
they were used in the titles and abstracts of articles, in Marketing  Marketing
order to ascertain whether the term was being used in a Product Functionality  Configuration Management
way which indicated attention paid to one of these 48 top-  Design Management
 Requirements Management
ics or 18 categories of topics. Some of the identified key-
 Technology Management
words could either be rejected or included immediately,  Value Management
but the vast majority required examination of their textual
Program Management  Program Management
context.
This analysis has made use of two forms of triangulation Project Evaluation  Organisational Learning
in generating results. Creation and interpretation of results and Improvement  Performance Management
 Project Evaluation and Review
has involved both quantitative and qualitative processes:
quantitative methods in the generation of keywords; qual- Project Planning and  Change Control
Control  Project Monitoring and Control
itative methods in the assessment of the way that they
 Project Planning
words were used in the text. Furthermore, triangulation
of results involved two researchers independently creating Project Start-up  Goals, Objectives and Strategies
 Project Initiation/Start-up
results, before results were compared. It was found that  Success (Criteria and Factors)
very little reconciliation was needed between the indepen-
Quality Management  Quality Management
dently generated results.
Relationship Management  Benefits Management
5. Results  Document Management
 Information and Communication
Management
Results have been analysed both in terms of the 48 indi-  Reporting
vidual project management topics and at the level of the 18  Team Building and Development
categories of topics. Results for the 10 year period of this Resource Management  Personnel/Human Resource
study are depicted in Fig. 4. The number of bars within a Management
particular category indicates the number of different key-  Procurement
words found to indicate attention paid to this aspect of  Project Organisation
 Resource Management
project management. The height of the bars indicates the
ranked keyness of the individual keywords. Risk Management  Risk Management
Results indicate an increase in the keyness of some top- Scope Management  Scope Management
ics over the sample period. Project Evaluation and
Strategic Alignment  Business Case
Improvement shows a slight increase in the attention paid  Financial Management
to this topic over the time period in both journals. Interest  Project Appraisal
in Strategic Alignment is also strong in IJPM and shows an  Strategic Alignment
increase in PMJ. An increase of interest is also evident in Time Management  Time Management
Cross Unit Outcomes, however there is considerable varia-
tion in how this interest is expressed at the topic level. On
the other hand, attention paid to Quality Management and Other results could not be used to show a general ten-
Interpersonal Issues decreases in both journals, showing a dency within the field, but instead indicated a difference
change in the trends identified in other studies [15,18]. in focus between IJPM and PMJ. For instance, Project
L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184 181

Planning and Control decreases in interest in IJPM, while tinuation of the trend uncovered a previous study [16]. The
increasing in focus in PMJ. Relationship Management, little attention paid to Finalisation in the first period van-
while remaining strong in both journals, demonstrates the ishes in the second period. A lack of interest in Finalisation
same tendency. Project Start-up and Time Management, found in this research confirms the trend of low interest
conversely, increase in keyness in IJPM, while decreasing indicated by previous studies [5,6].
in keyness in PMJ over the study period. Other tendencies are apparent at the level of the 48 pro-
An interesting tendency can be seen in the results for ject management topics, which are not apparent in the 18
both Resource and Risk Management. In both cases, in categories of topic. For instance, increased to attention
both journals, the number of keywords identified as indi- paid to Estimating, Organisational Learning and Project
cating these categories decreases in the second period. Context/Environment increases in both journals.
However, in the second period the ranked keyness of the Decreases in interest in Controlling, Conflict Management,
remaining terms increases. This could be taken to indicate Problem Solving and Stakeholder/Relationship Manage-
stable interest in these topics and a standardisation of the ment can be seen in both journals. Although interest in
terms used. Procurement in IJPM remains strong, attention paid to this
No keywords were found within the top 200 to indicate topic drops dramatically in PMJ.
attention paid to Marketing. Only a low level of interest Some topics show opposite trends between the journals.
could be seen in Legal Issues, Finalisation and Scope Man- Attention paid to integration increases in IJPM, but
agement. The lack of interest in Scope can be seen as a con- decreases in PMJ. Project Organisation becomes less key

Fig. 3. Topic coverage summary: 1994–2003.


182 L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184

in IJPM, but becomes more key within PMJ. Keywords Interest in reengineering projects is strong during the
indicating a focus on the Project Life Cycle are common first sample period in both journals. IJPM even provided
within IJPM, but comparatively rare within PMJ. a Business Process Reengineering and Beyond special issue
Other keywords could not be taken as directly indicating in 1996. However, attention to reengineering vanishes in
an interest in one of the 48 project management topics, but the second period, with none of the top 200 keywords
did stand out in the keyword lists. For instance, it is clear indicating interest in this kind of project. Issues of part-
that construction and engineering continue to dominate the nering also stand out, although the results are inconclu-
literature, with keywords indicating both of these industries sive. In PMJ, issues of partnering stand out as a top
giving consistently high results in both journals and in both keyword between 1994 and 1998, but do not appear as a
time periods. Defence and software both appeared in three keyword between 1999 and 2003. Inverse results were
of four time periods. Defence shows a slight decline in found in IJPM, which demonstrated no interest in part-
interest, while software shows a slight increase in interest nering in the first period and strong interest in the second
over the study period. period.

Period this study covers


83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03
Cost
Cross unit
outcomes

Finalisation
Interpersonal

Legal issues

Marketing
Product
functionality

Program management
Project evaluation
and improvement
Project planning
and control
Project
start-up

Quality
management

Relationship
management
Resource
management
Risk
management
Scope management
Strategic
alignment

Time
management

Figure key: Topic is reported as of significance


Topic is reported as not significant
Topic is reported as increasing in significance
Topic is reported as decreasing in significance

Fig. 4. Synthesis of project management trends: 1983–2003.


L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184 183

The influence of Systems Dynamics can also be seen on the evidence suggests that Resource Management and
articles in IJPM, with keywords in both time periods. It Time Management are both also central to the field. Stra-
appears that the influence of complex systems thinking tegic Alignment has been found by other studies to be of
has increased in IJPM, with indicative keywords such as significance, while this study found it to be increasing in
ÔcomplexityÕ and ÔemergentÕ making a strong appearance significance. This suggests that Strategic Alignment could
between 1999 and 2003. form an progressively dominant aspect of the field. By con-
An understanding of which research methodologies are trast, Finalisation, Scope Management and Marketing
favoured within the project management literature can also have either been ignored by previous studies or found to
be gleaned from this study. Three of the four sample peri- not be of significance in the PM literature.
ods produced keywords indicating a focus on the use of Interesting trends can also be seen in relation to Quality
surveys or questionnaires and production or use of heuris- Management and Interpersonal issues. Although both of
tics. Use of heuristics was particularly pronounced in PMJ. these topics have been found by previous studies to be of
These results indicate a general tendency within the project significance, and increasingly so, this study found a
management literature to focus on the use of surveys to decrease in their significance. As mentioned earlier, fads
produce heuristics for practice. ebb and flow [13]. Results from the synthesis of these stud-
ies suggests that although these topics may be important in
6. Synthesis with previous studies managing projects well, the significance that is placed on
these topics may have peaked.
As can be seen in Table 1, previous studies [3,5,6,15–18]
of trends in project management have found results which 7. Conclusion
vary, and are even directly contradictory, over the same time
period. The majority of these studies use different research This paper has examined trends in the literature on pro-
methods, both to each other and to that used in this research. ject management. Seven previous studies of trends in pro-
However, the differences in approach can be a strength if the ject management have been examined, and the results
different results can be brought together under a common contained in these studies brought under a single consistent
framework (see Fig. 4), allowing for broader tendencies to framework. More recent trends (1994–2003) in the litera-
be seen than are apparent in any one study. ture on project management have then been identified
The different areas of significance identified by the other using Keyword Analysis, a method of computational anal-
studies (the left column in Table 1) have been mapped onto ysis from the field of Corpus Linguistics.
18 categories of topics used in this study. Results for all The clearest trends uncovered by this study include a
eight studies, including this one, have then been combined. clear reduction in focus on Interpersonal Issues and Qual-
The same four kinds of trends in Fig. 3 are presented ity Management in the project management literature over
Fig. 4: significance; lack of significance; increase; or the last 10 years, while an increase in the significance of
decrease in significance. Information from each of the eight Project Evaluation and Improvement can be seen over
studies have been included in this figure, where the study the same period. Differences are also apparent in the foci
clearly indicated one of these four kinds of trend, in one of the International Journal of Project Management and
of the 18 categories. the Project Management Journal focus upon. Many topic
In some cases, contradictions are apparent, where con- areas were found that increased in keyness in one journal,
trary results have been found in different studies. Between while decreasing in the other journal.
1990 and 1999, for example, different studies have found More significant results were found when results from
that aspects of the category Product Functionality are of this study were then compared with previous studiesÕ
significance and not of significance. In such a case, it is results, providing a synthesis of trends in the field. Com-
unclear whether a clear trend exists, with results in the parison of results from multiple studies has provided the
studies in question possibly being dependant upon the par- opportunity for triangulation, and has mitigated against
ticular research methods used. errors inherent in relying on a single research method.
In other cases, cross over between studies has been Synthesis of results revealed that Relationship Manage-
found, where supporting information for a trend has been ment, Resource Management, Time Management, Cost
found. For instance, evidence in the different studies has Management and Risk Management all displayed consistent
been found to demonstrate an increase in the significance significance throughout the study period. However, by con-
of the category of Project Evaluation and Improvement trast, Finalisation, Scope and Marketing tend to either be
from 1983 to 2003, without any studies indicating a differ- ignored by writers on project management or identified as
ent kind of trend over this period. Risk and Cost have also not being of significance. Project Evaluation and Improve-
shown consistent trends, being of significance and increas- ment and Strategic Alignment are both increasing in their
ing in significance, respectively, although these trends do significance to the field. Evidence also suggests that the sig-
not extent over the whole period. nificance of Quality Management and Interpersonal Issues
Relationship Management is consistently reported as has peaked, and that while these issues have previously been
either being of significance or increasing significant, while interest to writers in the field, this interest is waning.
184 L. Crawford et al. / International Journal of Project Management 24 (2006) 175–184

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