Methodological Fit for Empirical Research in International Business: A Contingency Framework

Gary Knight*, Agnieszka Chidlow, Dana Minbaeva

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We seek to complement and extend the article by Welch, Piekkari, Plakoyiannaki, and Paavilainen-Mäntymäki (J Int Bus Stud 42:740–762, 2011), winner of the 2021 JIBS Decade Award, which advanced knowledge on case-based theory development in international business (IB). Similarly, we examine dimensions of scholarly inquiry across qualitative and quantitative research, using inductive and deductive approaches. Recent years have featured unprecedented growth in the volume and availability of data from diverse national contexts, offering novel opportunities for innovative research. Accordingly, we build on the logic of Welch et al. (2011) not only to elaborate on but also to call for a more pluralistic view of data and methodology. We advocate using a wider range of data and advanced methods in IB research, framed at the appropriate stage of theory development. We examine the interplay among theory, research design, data, and analytical technique, highlighting the role of data in methodological pluralism. While IB scholars have favored confirmatory approaches in deductive theory building, we argue for more exploratory research using both qualitative and quantitative data. We develop a contingency framework that highlights the stages of theory development, across the nexus of exploratory/confirmatory and qualitative/quantitative approaches, to guide empirical scholarship. We conclude by calling for triangulation and adopting the most appropriate combination of theory, research design, data, and analytical technique, to develop theory in IB research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 10 November 2021.


  • Methodological fit
  • Methodological pluralism
  • Theory
  • Quantitative data
  • Qualitative data

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