Exploring SWOT analysis –
where are we now?
A review of academic research from the
Marilyn M. Helms
School of Business, Dalton State College, Dalton, Georgia, USA, and
Management Department, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga,
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this study is to examine the use of the strategic management tool,
Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats or SWOT analysis, and to assess how the methodology
has been used as well as changes to the methodology. The ﬁndings both for and against SWOT analysis
should lead to a balanced view of the technique as well as yield ideas for needed theory building.
Design/methodology/approach – Using the ABInform Globalw database, academic peer-reviewed
articles were compiled indicating SWOT as one of the article’s key index and search words.
Findings – The use of SWOT analysis continues to permeate the academic peer-reviewed literature.
Research supports SWOT analysis as a tool for planning purposes. Over the past decade, SWOT
research has focused on analyzing organizations for recommended strategic actions. As a
methodology for strategic positioning, SWOT analysis has been extended beyond companies to
countries and industries and is used in virtually every published business case positioned for business
student analysis. Additional use of SWOT is as teaching tools by consultants, trainers and educators.
This paper provides a summary of the research studies and suggests paths for future research.
Research limitations/implications – This paper is limited to analyzing reports found in a
selection of academic peer-reviewed business journals. However, research implications for applying
SWOT analysis provides a broad spectrum of industry analysis in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Additional limitations are the need to link SWOT analysis to other strategic tools and methodologies
for further theory building, since past research continues to lack quantiﬁable ﬁndings on the success of
the SWOT analysis.
Practical implications – A fresh view of new directions and implementations for SWOT analysis,
as well as other strategic planning tools that can be combined with SWOT, provides guidance for
practitioners and policy makers alike.
Originality/value – The article adds value to the existing literature as the ﬁrst summary of SWOT
research indicating its uses and limitations. Support of its usage and place in the strategic literature is
validated. The SWOT methodology is pervasive, in large part, due to its simplicity. In addition, the use
of SWOT as a proven developmental, results-oriented strategic planning tool is also extended,
although further research leading to theory building is warranted and recommended.
Keywords SWOT analysis, Strategic management, Research methods, Globalization
Paper type Literature review
Researchers in strategic management (Ansoff, 1965; Andrews, 1987; Porter, 1991; and
Mintzberg et al., 1998) agree SWOT or Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and
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Journal of Strategy and Management
Vol. 3 No. 3, 2010
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited