Between progress and struggle: young PR-scholars’ contribution to theory building and progress in public relations research

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Purpose – The paper aims to analyze the contribution of young academics to the field of public relations
(PR) and shows which authors exert most influence on them. The study thereby contributes to the assessment
of the state of the art of theory building in the field. The authors analyzed the study data against the
background of two approaches on progress in the field: Nothhaft et al.’s (2018) idea of strategic communication
as an elusive concept and Winkler et al.’s (2021) narrative approach.
Design/methodology/approach – The study comprises two parts. First, the authors conducted a survey
among participants of the EUPRERA PhD-workshops between 2007 and 2019, asking respondents about their
perception of the state of the field. Second, the authors performed a bibliometric (co-)citation analysis of the
young scholars’ most important works.
Findings – Results indicate that though the field has progressed in terms of quantity and diversified with
regard to established paradigms, it has not matured in a sense that it has settled on a generally accepted
theoretical underpinning. However, the data show how the dominant paradigms in the field map onto the
co-citation networks that emerged out of the works of young scholars. The authors’ findings imply that
this new generation might signal their allegiance to a paradigm by citing the works of its emblematic
Originality/value – Unlike most bibliometric studies, this one uses an author-centered approach, thus
studying works that matter most to young academics themselves. Not only do the authors thereby contribute to
the analysis of the state of theory building in PR research, but also expand the scope in looking at research as a
social system, in which young researchers need to position themselves.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Issue number3
Early online dateOct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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