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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 19: Watch What I Do, Not What I Say: New Questions for Documents in International Business Case Research

April Wright


April Wright INTRODUCTION This chapter explores the methods used to analyse documents in international business (IB) case research. Documents such as minutes of meetings, agendas, letters of correspondence, strategic plans, and public and internal reports may be made available to a researcher studying companies or subsidiaries operating internationally. However, despite the availability of documents, recent analysis of case studies published in core IB journals reveals that documents are universally underutilized and undervalued (Piekkari et al. 2009). Few authors specify the types of documents to which they gained access, and documents are subsumed in importance to interview data when reporting empirical findings (Piekkari et al. 2009). The neglect of documents is driven, in no small part, by the narrowness of methods available to analyse documents. The traditional approach to documentary analysis, which focuses on documents as records of textbased content, asks the question, ‘What does this document say?’ Methods of analysis consistent with this question include summarizing document content into a historical case background as a precursor to richer, multimethod data collection and analysis. It also includes content analysis of themes recorded in documents or, less frequently, discursive analyses of the languaging and meaning-making in documents such as annual reports. This chapter proposes a new question about documents as sources of IB case data. Rather than focusing narrowly and partially on what documents say, case researchers should ask holistically, ‘What does this document do?’ Because organizational documents connect to other documents in sequences and hierarchies, and because organizational documents...

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