Three pathways to case selection in international business: A twenty-year review, analysis & synthesis

Margaret Fletcher, Yang Zhao, Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki, Trevor Buck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With its focus on locational context, International Business (IB) is a prime candidate for the application of Case Study (CS) methodology. Yet many IB scholars still have doubts about CSs, possibly because strategies for their selection and disclosure procedures may lack rigor. The purpose of this article is to document and discuss CS selection in IB research, make suggestions for improvement, and thus raise the standard and status of CS research.

Using qualitative content analysis, this paper examines CS selection strategies in four IB journals (1995–2014), relating them to chosen theoretical purposes and logics employed. Our results indicate that 12% of the 333 investigated CS articles lacked a section on methodology, and 41% of papers reported no indication of how CSs were selected. Drawing insights from the dataset, we propose and distinguish between theory-driven and phenomenon-driven CS selection approaches. In light of our evidence, best-practice papers are identified and apportioned to coherent pathways connecting theoretical purpose, logic and CS selection strategies. In doing so, we address the link between case selection and theorizing in CSs and advocate greater methodological sophistication and transparency of CS selection reporting in IB research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-766
JournalInternational Business Review
Issue number4
Early online date30 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


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