Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to provide a systematic review of the substantial and growing body of emerging market (EM) research. Through assessing the literature an organizing framework is formed to support a nuanced basis for future research and management decisions in EMs. Design/methodology/approach: Following guidelines of seminal authors, the authors conduct a systematic review involving both leading field-specific and top-tier international business journals. Findings: The empirical context of the literature is outlined showing dominance of studies involving China and India. Seminal contributions are identified based on cross-references in the EM field and citations in international business literature in general. The definitional elements of the most dominant definitions are compiled into an organizing framework. Research limitations/implications: Researchers need to acknowledge the distinct contextual setting of specific regions and countries labeled as EMs. This entails considerations into the capacity of current frameworks to lend insights not just on EM contexts but the particular EM context in focus. Practical implications: The findings suggest a more nuanced approach to managing activities in EM contexts. The proposed framework encloses the EM category on its distinct dimensions. Each provides a unique basis for managerial decision-making on specified EM activities. Originality/value: This paper provides the first systematic review of the ever-growing body of EM research literature to map and assess the existing intellectual territory. Through this, the authors contribute to the development of the existing body of knowledge and form a solid basis for future research.