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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 13: The Single MNC as a Research Site

Jon Erland B. Lervik


Jon Erland B. Lervik* INTRODUCTION In this chapter the options, potential and challenges of doing research in a single multinational corporation (MNC) are explored. The discussion includes research approaches that treat a single MNC as a case, studies that sample one or more cases within a single MNC, and other research designs that use a single MNC as a setting for conventional theory testing. The focus is on active research with in situ primary data collection, as opposed to research just based on secondary data. The objectives of this chapter are threefold. First, I examine the options by categorizing alternative research designs within a single MNC, which differ in their rationale, contributions and limitations. I distinguish single-N, small-N and large-N approaches within a single MNC. Second, a strong case is made for the potential of a combined approach that draws on both conventional theory testing and a case logic for the purpose of both developing and testing theory. I discuss advantages of a combined design, with examples from my own research, as well as that of others. Third, I discuss the challenges in collaborating closely with a single MNC. Although close involvement might ‘compromise’ the researcher’s status as a neutral, disinterested outsider, it is rarely discussed in journal publications, where objective, distant research is espoused or assumed. Research in international business (IB) may experience a type of liability of foreignness by doing research in foreign firms and locations. A central concern in our field is data access and quality. Whether...

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