Supervisor: Dr Leila Alinaghian  

Applications are invited from potential PhD students with a background in operations management, procurement, logistics and supply chain management or general management who have an interest in advancing the science of supply networks.

Over the last few decades, a growing body of organisational research has examined how the position of network actors within the collective arrangement of network relationships as well as the nature and quality of these relationships can influence the actors’ behaviour and performance. These effects have been specifically examined within individuals (e.g., Moran, 2005; Sosa, 2011), organisational business units (e.g., Hansen, 1999; Tsai and Ghoshal, 1998) and collaborative partners’ networks (e.g., Ahuja, 2000; Capaldo, 2007; Rowley, Behrens and Krackhardt, 2000). Recently, scholars in the field of operations and supply chain management have also shifted their attention from a basic buyer-supplier dyad to the collective arrangement of supply network relationships in which firms are embedded to address the complexity of extended supply networks and capture a more realistic understanding of the supply chain phenomenon (e.g., Borgatti and Li, 2009; Choi and Kim, 2008; Choi and Wu, 2009; Carter, Rogers and Choi, 2015; Kim et al., 2011; Yan et al., 2015). This shift, however, drives a need for novel theoretical frameworks, constructs and research methods to advance the science of supply networks.

A programme of research is proposed to address the operational and strategic benefits that can be gained from the supply networks (as a unique form of inter-organisational network) at both single-actor and multi-actor levels. There are currently two research streams. The first research stream addresses the issue of how the structural position of a supply network actor within the collective arrangement of network relationships as well as the attributes and quality of these network linkages might affect its operational and dynamic capabilities. The second research stream examines the multi-actor performance through investigating the overall architecture and dynamics of supply network relationships.

Within this context, potential research topics in this area could include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Developing novel actor-level and network-level structural and relational metrics to address the current challenges of conceptualising supply networks (e.g., supply chain boundary, supply chain as a relative phenomenon etc.)
  • Investigating the antecedents and consequences of supply networks structural properties (i.e., the recurrent pattern of inter-organisational relationships)
  • Examining the quality and nature of inter-organisational relationships and appropriate governance models within the broader context of supply networks
  • Conceptualising and operationalising supply network performance at a multi-actor level (i.e., How does supply network performance measured at a multi-actor level)?
  • Investigating the evolution of supply networks (e.g., formation, development and growth, death and transformation)
  • Supply network resources and inter-organisational capabilities

Your work can take any shape - from in-depth qualitative case-based work to network analysis and quantitative studies in tackling some of these issues. You will be expected to join the current supply network research debates and make an original contribution that will both advance the science of supply networks and be relevant and useful for practitioners.

The successful candidate is expected to submit a research proposal, which addresses the current state of debate in supply network research, their proposed research questions, and the research methodologies they hope to use to address these questions. Expressions of interest alongside a CV are invited via email to Dr Leila Alinaghian ( in the first instance.

Admission requirements:

  • A strong first degree (UK level 2.1 minimum)
  • Candidates should satisfy Cranfield School of Management admission criteria.


Ahuja, G., 2000. Collaboration networks, structural holes, and innovation: A longitudinal study. Administrative Science Quarterly, 45(3), 425-455.

Borgatti, S.P. and Li, X., 2009. On social network analysis in a supply chain context. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 45(2), 5-21.

Capaldo, A., 2007. Network structure and innovation: The leveraging of a dual network as a distinctive relational capability. Strategic Management Journal, 28(6), 585-608.

Carter, C.R., Rogers, D.S. and Choi, T.Y., 2015. Toward the theory of the supply chain. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 51(2), 89-97.

Choi, T.Y. and Kim, Y., 2008. Structural embeddedness and supplier management: A network perspective. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 44(4), 5-13.

Choi, T.Y. and Wu, Z., 2009. Triads in supply networks: Theorizing buyer–supplier–supplier relationships. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 45 (1), 8-25.

Kim, Y., Choi, T.Y., Yan, T. and Dooley, K., 2011. Structural investigation of supply networks: A social network analysis approach. Journal of Operations Management, 29(3), 194-211.

Moran, P., 2005. Structural vs. relational embeddedness: Social capital and managerial performance. Strategic Management Journal, 26(12), 1129-1151.

Rowley, T., Behrens, D. and Krackhardt, D., 2000. Redundant governance structures: An analysis of structural and relational embeddedness in the steel and semiconductor industries. Strategic Management Journal, 21(3), 369-386.

Sosa, M.E., 2011. Where do creative interactions come from? The role of tie content and social networks. Organization Science, 22(1), 1-21.

Yan, T., Choi, T.Y., Kim, Y. and Yang, Y., 2015. A theory of the nexus supplier: A critical supplier from a network perspective. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 51(1), 52-66.

Contact Details

Email:   Tel: +44 (0) 1234 751122 x2883