Academic journal article Management International Review

Mixed Methods in International Business Research: A Value-Added Perspective

Academic journal article Management International Review

Mixed Methods in International Business Research: A Value-Added Perspective

Article excerpt


* The paper considers the use of mixed methods in international business research by reviewing empirical studies in four major journals. A total of 484 articles were reviewed, 68 of which had applied a mixed method strategy.

* In our analysis we categorize mixed methods according to their use in different stages of the research process and provide a range of alternative designs for mixing qualitative and quantitative methods.

Key Results

* Our review reveals that most mixed method studies conform to a single design leaving considerable potential for increasing validity and creating knowledge through alternative designs.


Cunningham et al. (2000) have aptly compared research methodology to a kaleidoscope that reveals a different reality to each researcher depending on how it is used. Thus, even small changes in composition may result in a completely different image of the same phenomenon. On the other hand, none of the viewers will capture the richness of the whole at one glance. This metaphor follows the reasoning of McGrath (1982), who argued that all research methods are imperfect and incomplete. Thus, methodological pluralism is and has been strongly encouraged.

However, methodological pluralism is not an end in itself, and the rationale behind it needs to be clearly expressed (Creswell 2003). In the field of international business (IB), the justification arises from the subject matter itself. International business is a multi-faceted area of research, crossing national, cultural, organizational and personal boundaries, and inspiring quite complicated research questions. Thus, following the thoughts of Karl Weick (1979, p. 189), it seems that if a narrow methodological approach were to be applied in this complex context, only a small slice of the reality would be revealed. Additionally, international business as a relatively new field of research still offers several avenues of exploration for which theoretical roadmaps do not yet exist or are inadequate. In these uncharted regions researchers may apply several methods in order to stay on firm ground and arrive safely at their destination.

Consequently, it is not surprising that the use of multiple methods has been frequently called for among IB researchers, although the approach still seems to be underrepresented compared to single-method studies (e.g., Clark et al. 1999, Peterson 2004). Their minor role as a research strategy is highlighted in some reviews of IB-related studies in which mixed methods are ignored as an alternative and all empirical studies are classified as either quantitative or qualitative (Andersen/ Skaates 2004, Mendenhall et al. 1993, Werner 2002). One explanation for this weak representation in empirical research could be the fact that studies based on methodological approaches that cross boundaries face some difficulties in getting published (Birkinshaw 2004, Welch/Welch 2004).

In sum, knowledge of the implementation of mixed methods is as yet limited. Yet the issue clearly deserves greater attention given that the impact of research depends on the appropriateness and rigor of the methods used (Scandura/Williams 2000). The purpose of this paper is therefore to consider the implementation and the impact of mixed methods in IB research. The following questions are addressed: 1) How have mixed methods been implemented in IB research? 2) What is the value-added potential of mixed methods for IB research?

Defining Mixed Methods

Early attempts to enhance methodological pluralism were made by researchers in the social sciences with a quantitative background (Campbell/Fiske 1959, Webb et al. 1966), emphasizing the validity problems stemming from a reliance on single-method measures of concepts (Bryman 1992). This impetus resulted in various combinations of research strategies, and different types were later identified. Denzin (1978, p. …

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