Academic journal article Multinational Business Review

Outstanding International Business Research: Nature of the Best International Business Dissertations

Academic journal article Multinational Business Review

Outstanding International Business Research: Nature of the Best International Business Dissertations

Article excerpt


Based on fifteen years of data on the annual Academy of International Business (AIB) best dissertation Farmer Award finalists, we find that these dissertations were done at a range of North American universities. Interestingly, dissertation topics differed from the topics covered in the three top IB journals with five-sixths of the topics in management, organization, economics, or finance and two-thirds set in a single country or region (U.S., Japan, North America, and Western Europe). Survey research is the most common methodology but analysis of secondary data is growing. As expected, the finalists are on average an extraordinarily prolific group.


International business (IB) education and research plays a key role in the academic quest to keep up with the rapid pace of globalization in business and industry. Clearly, the nature of doctoral research provides an indication of the quality and emerging direction of research in IB. It is not surprising that the Academy of International Business started a best dissertation award in 1986 that selects four finalists and a winner each year (renamed the Farmer Award in 1990). These Farmer Award finalist dissertations represent some of the best scholarly thinking in international business. Their selection as finalists reflects the judgments of the Farmer Award committees consisting of senior IB scholars and based on criteria established by the Academy of International Business. Thus, the nature and trends reflected in these dissertations are likely to be important indicators of the state of the field and as such should be of much interest to international business scholars. This paper is the first known analysis of the nature and trends in the dissertations of the Farmer Award finalists for the decade of the 1990s.

Our study finds that while most of the finalists' dissertations were done at North American universities, there is little concentration in doctoral granting universities or advisors among the finalist dissertations. Management, organization, economics, and finance made up nearly fivesixths of the topics covered by the finalist dissertations and two-thirds of the dissertations focused on a single country. The most popular countries for study were the U.S. and Japan and, more generally, the most popular research areas were North America and Western Europe. Survey research is the most common procedure for collecting primary data but the use of secondary data in IB dissertations is growing. Not surprisingly, the finalists are on average a very productive post-dissertation group with the earlier finalists publishing more scholarly papers but the more recent finalists publishing at a higher annual rate. These results should be of much interest to doctoral candidates in IB, their advisors, and to others interested in the trends in some of the best international business research and they offer some insights into the sort of scholarly research being conducted in international business. Further, they suggest that IB research is quite different from the research being done in the more functional fields of business.


International business (IB) is generally more complex than business in only one country. Let us consider why this makes it more complex. Clearly, in addition to border effects such as currency and political risks, IB also has to deal with international variations in institutional and cultural settings. Next, IB must deal with international variations in levels of development, social values, trust, and ethics which are important determinants of transactions costs and thus of the nature and boundaries of firms. Clearly, IB study and research by its very nature needs to be interdisciplinary and thus more complex (and so, more interesting).

However, as mentioned earlier, much of business academia is organized around tightly defined silo-like functional disciplines (e. …

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