A Narrative Evidence Synthesis of Meaningful Work: Progress and Research Agenda

Katie Bailey, Ruth Yeoman, Adrian Madden, Marc Thompson, Gary Kerridge

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Meaningful work has been a focus of interest for many years now and has been identified by scholars across a range of disciplines as a vitally important topic. However, no synthesis of the empirical evidence presented in academic studies has hitherto been performed, and hence we cannot be sure whether accounts of meaningful work are over-reliant on conceptual or theoretical insights that do not take the lived reality of meaningful work into consideration. We present the findings of a narrative evidence synthesis of the literature on meaningful work that included studies published from 1950 until 2015. Narrative synthesis has been welcomed as a suitable approach for interpreting and synthesizing data from disparate sources in the social sciences. Just 46 empirical studies met the inclusion criteria. Most studies relied on cross-sectional self-report survey methodologies and most had taken place within the psychology field, leaving subjects such as political theory and sociology with a largely conceptual bias. We addressed five questions concerning the definitions, measures and theories of meaningful work, together with its antecedents and outcomes. The synthesis highlighted the lack of consensus within the literature over how to define and measure meaningful work, alongside the dearth of empirical evidence. We show the important gaps in understanding that arise from the extant empirical work in the field, and suggest avenues for future research that would advance knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10608
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event76th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - Anaheim, California
Duration: 8 Aug 2016 → …


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