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Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research

Edited by Rebecca Piekkari and Catherine Welch

This important and original book critically evaluates case study practices and calls for a more pluralistic future for case research in international business (IB) and international management (IM).
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Chapter 7: Sumantra’s Challenge: Publish a Theory-testing Case Study in a Top Journal

Gabriel Szulanski and Robert J. Jensen


Gabriel Szulanski and Robert J. Jensen* INTRODUCTION This chapter reports the highlights of a 15-year journey during which we tested a theory with a single case study (N = 1) and published the ensuing report in the Strategic Management Journal (SMJ). It was a worthy and, we want to believe, path-finding journey. It all began in 1990, during the exciting early days of the INSEAD PhD programme, in a doctoral seminar on Advanced Research Methods. In the opening session, Professor Sumantra Ghoshal, the course head, promised to spare no effort to expose us to the then state of the art in advanced qualitative methods for management research. To fully satisfy the requirements of this seminar we had to find ways to test a theory using a single case study, and – here is the hard part – publish our report in a top journal of our field, such as the SMJ, Administrative Science Quarterly, the Academy of Management Journal, or Management Science. That was the beginning of what would become an exciting journey. We gradually discovered the many facets of this non-trivial challenge and acquired the tools to address it. Our resolve in this journey was repeatedly tested by bemused and often sceptical audiences. Finally, we found a way to test theory with a single case study . . . and we published it in Volume 27 of SMJ in 2006. After a four-year review process, Will Mitchell, an incisive, demanding, and constructive editor, accepted the paper based on the advice of two dedicated and eventually...

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