Field or fields? Building the scaffolding for cumulation of research on institutional fields

C. Zietsma, P. Groenewegen, D. Logue, C.R. Hinings

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The concept of an institutional field is one of the cornerstones of institutional theory, and yet the concept has been stretched both theoretically and empirically, making consolidation of findings across multiple studies more difficult. In this article, we review the literature and analyze empirical studies of institutional fields to build scaffolding for the cumulation of research on institutional fields. Our review revealed two types of fields: exchange and issue fields, with three subtypes of each. We describe their characteristics, and subsequently, review field conditions in the extant literature and develop a typology based on two dimensions: the extent of elaboration of institutional infrastructure and the extent to which there is an agreed-upon prioritization of logics. We discuss the implications of field types and conditions for isomorphism, agency, and field change, based on a review of the literature that revealed six pathways of field change and the factors affecting them. We outline a research agenda based on our review highlighting the need for consolidation of field studies and identify several outstanding issues that are in need of further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-450
Number of pages60
JournalAcademy of Management Annals
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


We thank Frank de Bakker, Robert David, Royston Greenwood, Frank den Hond, Mike Lounsbury, Pat MacDonald, and Jakomijn van Wijk for comments and intensive discussions on earlier drafts, and Annals editor, Sim Sitkin, and especially our action editor, Forrest Briscoe, for their timely and very helpful editorial work. We also thank Universidad Carlos III, Madrid, and University of Technology Sydney for their generous support and hosting of authors during the writing of this paper.

FundersFunder number
University of Technology Sydney


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