Purpose: Meta reviews are central for mapping the state of the field, consolidating the heterogeneous public relations body of knowledge, and pointing to new potential research directions. Habermas is one of the most influential contemporary social theorists and his work has repeatedly been used in public relations scholarship. While some have maintained that his work has been most influential in the development of public relations theory, this stream of research has never been reviewed empirically. Design/methodology/approach: In this paper, we present a bibliometric literature review of 263 research articles published between 1980 and 2016. A network analysis of these publications based on the technique of bibliographic coupling was used to identify common forms of application, research themes, as well as patterns of impact. Findings: Results show that the use of Habermas has grown significantly, specifically in the recent decade. At the same time, researchers have a narrow focus specifically on earlier developments in the theory. Finally, we discover three main topical research clusters that have been influenced by the theory: public relations and the public sphere, dialogic stakeholder relationships, as well as public relations and communication ethics. Originality/value: Our findings map out an important stream of scholarship in the field by showing were public relations scholars have been and were the research community has not ventured yet. Based on the results of this analysis we propose directions for research to advance future theory development in public relations using Habermas’ work.
Connecting the dots: A bibliometric review of Habermasian theory in public relations research