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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 9: Beyond the Inductive Myth: New Approaches to the Role of Existing Theory in Case Research

Poul Houman Andersen and Hanne Kragh


Poul Houman Andersen and Hanne Kragh INTRODUCTION The international business (IB) field has seen growing interest in case research and other qualitative approaches as powerful means for investigating complex social phenomena. This interest is not surprising given the multidisciplinary nature of phenomena in IB that lend themselves to qualitative approaches for theory building (Marschan-Piekkari and Welch 2004). However, the IB field is not particularly innovative with respect to using and reflecting upon case research, at least when compared to other disciplines such as, for instance, marketing or management. Whereas both of these disciplines have been supplying theoretical concepts and even research questions to IB (Tsui 2007), advances in case-based research methodologies in these fields have not been adopted within IB. A recent study concluded that a convention of exploratory and positivistic approaches to case studies dominates the research published in dedicated IB journals (Piekkari et al. 2009). One particular area where more diversity could advance theoretical development in IB is the use of pre-existing theoretical knowledge. The assumption in IB is that case studies are based on inductive reasoning. Reflecting its positivist origins, induction is concerned with the process of inference from the known to the unknown, basing the steps towards generalization on observable facts through the use of logic (Mill 1974). An inductive research process is not concerned with the role and use of existing theory, but sees the logic applied to empirical observation as a way to reach knowledge. Researchers are often advised to proceed with caution. Literature...

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