Literature Review Critique

Introduction

Meraxa (2016) wrote a dissertation to examine the nature of inter-firm and extra-firm relationships between multinational producer services firms (PSFs) and their clients in Indonesia. The paper particularly looks at the communication aspect within networks and how communication is used to promote relationship in PSFs firm-client relationship in Indonesia. This paper will provide an analysis and critique on the dissertation’s literature review. The analysis will determine; i) the research questions/problems of the paper; ii) the theoretical and/or conceptual foundation employed; iii) how relevant is the review of literature to the research questions identified by the author; iv) the synthesis or combination of ideas in the literature and; v) recommendations.

Research Problems/questions

The primary research problem in the paper is to identify the nature of the relationship between PSFs and their clients who may either be other firms or the government. The structure of economic transactions can either be contractual or social. The author endeavors to determine how PSFs develop and maintain ties with various clients i.e. inter-firm and extra-firm from a communication perspective in the economic geography literature. The study is set to determine; i) the correlation between mode of communication and relational proximity; ii) correlation between communication and firm performance and; iii) the correlation between uncertainty and relational proximity. The author also examines how the role of communication networks in enhancing competitive advantage, trust and relationship between PSFs and their clients in Indonesia.

 

Theoretical/Conceptual Foundation

The theoretical framework used by Meraxa is based on communication theories, specifically uncertainty theories in trying to explain social interactions, networks and communications. Communication theory serves as the “umbrella” theory providing the basis in which individuals interact with each other. The author uses this theory to expound on how communication is essential in any transaction between two or more parties. The author focuses on interpersonal relationship which is synonymous to how two firms would relate to each other on a ‘personal’ level to foster their relationship. The author uses communication to demonstrate why parties enter into relationships, how the relationships are maintained and the channels of communication. Amidst the different communication theories, the author narrows it down to uncertainty theories that look at uncertainty as the reason for communication.

In the review of literature, Meraxa uses Uncertainty theories to demonstrate how information is sought within networks and how it is developed/maintained. The theory helps the reader to understand that interactive communication within networks help reduce uncertainties in organization, and as the uncertainty decreases the intimacy increases. The reader can understand through the utility theories how relationships are developed from initial interactions where the uncertainty levels are high to more personal interactions where uncertainty levels have decreased. In summary, the communication theory and specifically utility theories are used by the author to establish how communication is used to explain why parties enter into relationships, how they interact, and how they develop/maintain the interactions. 

Relevance of Literature Review

The relevance of the literature review can be established by looking at how the author uses the literature to set the basis of the research, how the review is related to the research problem and if there is a gap in the literature review that needs to be studied in the research. Firstly, the author has adequately covered most of the areas that a reader would need to understand the scope of the research and how other authors have expressed their opinions on the topic. Meraxa explores the different elements of relational economic geography such as interaction. The author then looks deeper at aspects of social organization such as trust and social capital. The literature is related to the research problem in various ways. The author first explores social interactions in the literature review which is the structure of relationship used in Indonesia as opposed to contractual structure that is used in countries such as the United States. The author goes further to use the literature to help the reader understand what are the key concepts in the research such as relational economic geography, relational proximity, networks and  lastly assist the reader understand communication through communication theories.

The author identifies that there is a gap which forms the basis of the research. The gap identified is the role of communication in relational economic geography and how there is deficiency of communication in relational economic geography. 

Synthesis of Ideas

Firstly, Meraxa has arranged the ideas or concepts of the research chronologically in the literature review by starting with a succinct introduction. The author provides a brief background of relational economic geography of how it evolved from economic to non-economic factors. The author should have added a brief paragraph outlining how Chapter 2 will be arranged for a better overview of the chapter. The chapter is arranged chronologically where the author starts first by defining and explaining the basic concepts or key words in the research which include relational economic geography and networks. After defining the concepts the author goes ahead to show how the different concepts relate to each other such as networks and performance, communication and relational economic geography, and communication and networks. How the ideas have been combined helps the reader move from the fundamental basics of the research to how the different concepts relate to each other. Reading through the literature review is easy even for a layman who is not knowledgeable on relational economic geography to understand the topic. 

One noticeable omission by the author is the literature on producer service firms. The author should have looked for works done by different scholars from inside and outside Indonesia on relevant subjects such as relational economic geography, social interactions and performance. Such literature would provide the reader and even the author relevant data that is specific to PSFs. 

Recommendations

The review of literature looked at the important points that need to guide and give direction to the research. The author missed on a few key areas that would have added insight in approaching the topic such as literature of PSFs and chapter overview. The theoretical framework provided communication theories that supported the subject matter.  Lastly, the author did an exceptional job in identifying a gap in research in the literature review that would be addressed in the subsequent chapters of the paper. 

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