Purpose – This purpose of this paper is to identify the possible sources of variation of results in prior studies linking corporate social responsibility (CSR) with corporate financial performance (CFP). Design/methodology/approach – A meta‐analysis was performed on 51 prior studies included in Orlitzky et al. in order to ensure compatibility with previous results. The meta‐analysis is based on sub‐groups of papers in five‐year time intervals focusing on sample size and methodology employed as the sources of variation concerning the nexus between CSR and CFP. Findings – The major finding of the study is that sample size and methodology are significant sources of variation in measuring the link between CSR and CFP. Research limitations/implications – The findings are likely to help develop a structural framework towards broadening and deepening our understanding of the debate regarding the sources of variation in the measurement of CSR and CFP link. This research is limited to papers published up to 1999 as included in Orlitzky et al. Future research can update the findings by using data beyond 1999. Originality/value – This paper can be considered an advance on the previous research as it contributes to broadening our understanding of the possible source of causes of variation in results of studies linking CSR with CFP.