Factors Influencing Students' Choice of and Success in STEM: A Bibliometric Analysis and Topic Modeling Approach

Mfowabo Maphosa, Wesley Doorsamy, Babu Sena Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Contribution: This article lends empirical evidence to this research area of factors influencing students' choice of and success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Background: Understanding these factors is crucial as it informs recruitment and support interventions provided to students and constitutes a premise to improving graduation rates. The social cognitive career theory (SCCT) was used as a theoretical framework to provide insight regarding factors influencing students' choice of qualifications. Research Questions: What is the state of research on the factors influencing students' choice of and success in STEM programmes? Which of these factors have interested most researchers? What research themes are covered in articles investigating these factors? Methodology: This study followed the general bibliometric analysis workflow - study design, data collection, data analysis, data visualization, and interpretation. Data collection followed the preferred reporting items for systematic review and metaanalysis (PRISMA) guidelines. From an initial set of 408 articles, 179 related to the theme and were published in the Web of Science between 2004 and 2020. These articles were analyzed using the standard bibliometric metrics. Findings: Findings indicate that this research field is still growing. Thirty-two factors were identified and rated based using an objective assessment criterion. In addition, a classification of the factors is presented based on the SCCT. This study provides a theoretical reference for improving success rates for STEM qualifications and better understanding the theme. The study proposes a research agenda of what future research in the field should focus on, based on current gaps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-669
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • Choice of qualifications
  • and mathematics (STEM) students
  • engineering
  • science
  • social cognitive career theory (SCCT)
  • student retention
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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