Tropical Geography ›› 2021, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (1): 190-205.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003309

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Intellectual Structure and Themes Evolution of Cluster Research

Xiuqiong Wang1(), Haiying Chen1, Xiaojie Wu2()   

  1. 1.Department of Tourism Management, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou 510006, China
    2.School of Management, Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou 510520, China
  • Received:2020-04-28 Revised:2020-09-28 Online:2021-01-05 Published:2021-02-19
  • Contact: Xiaojie Wu;


From the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) Eigenfactor Project 2015 category, 115 journals in six disciplines which are ranked top 20 in order of impact scores in their own disciplines were selected. A total of 1002 industrial cluster research studies collected from the Web of Science between 1998 to 2019 were used as samples. BibExcel software was used for data cleaning and literature co-citation analysis, and co-occurrence matrix was inserted into SPSS software and Pajek software for exploratory factor analysis and network analysis, respectively. The differences and commonalities of the two results obtained from exploratory factor analysis and network analysis were compared by reading literature abstracts and manuscripts to robustly identify the knowledge base. According to the framework of 2W1H, the knowledge module was integrated into a problem-oriented system to understand the internal logic mechanism of the entire study. The top 41 studies in the citation frequency of each period from 1998 to 2005, 2006 to 2012, and 2013 to 2019 were selected to analyze the keyword co-occurrence in different periods, main theoretical basis, contextual focus, evolution of research topics, and important research trends. The results show that: 1) The knowledge base of industrial clusters can be divided into nine modules: external economics and new economic geography, new industrial district theory, competitive advantage theory, evolutionary economic geography, buzz and pipelines, regional innovation system, new economic sociology, absorptive capacity, and global chains; 2) The knowledge structure of these modules can be reflected through the 2W1H research framework, in which the WHAT part is composed of four modules: external economics, new economic geography, new industrial district theory, competitive advantage theory, and evolutionary economic geography. It answers the questions regarding concept, types and development stages of the cluster. The knowledge base of cluster type research in this part is less, which reflects the lack of corresponding research literature, and therefore this needs to be enriched using typology theory. The part WHY is composed of external economics and this is divided into two modules, i.e., new economic geography and competitive advantage theory, which answer the questions about the causes of cluster and its impact on regional or enterprise competitive advantage. In the 21st century, researchers have paid increasing attention to the causes of urban cultural and creative industry cluster formation. The part HOW is composed of five modules: buzz and pipelines, regional innovation system, new economic sociology, absorptive capacity, and global chains. This part is the most important, and can be categorized into three levels: enterprise, region, and country; 3) Between 1998-2019, the regional innovation system had been the main theoretical source of cluster. Evolutionary economic geography had occupied a significant position between 2006 and 2012 and it tended to blend with the global chain. The important theoretical sources of the three periods were constantly updated and enriched, thereby increasing the degree of integration with management theory. The focused industries of the three periods were more diverse, especially the status of the service industry, and the focus regions were later transferred to emerging markets and underdeveloped markets; innovation and local economic development had always been the core topics of the three periods. From 2006 to 2012, globalization and entrepreneurial activities received more attention. From 2013 to 2019, management theory occupied the main position, as it focused on new topics such as environmental governance and stakeholder management, and paid more attention to social, ecological, and other issues. Finally, based on the results, some suggestions for domestic research were presented.

Key words: industrial cluster, bibliometric literature review, co-citation analysis, network analysis

CLC Number: 

  • F062.9