The Declining Share of Primary Data and the Neglect of the Individual Level in International Business Research

Jelena Cerar, Phillip C. Nell*, B. Sebastian Reiche

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

22 Downloads (Pure)


Complementing Nielsen and colleagues’ (2020) analysis of methodological trends in the Journal of International Business Studies over the past 50 years, we examine similar data on methods published in a wider range of leading international business (IB) journals. Our analysis shows a clear decline of studies based on primary data relative to secondary data, and a persistently low level of individual-level studies among the growing body of research using secondary data across all IB journals considered. We discuss the main mechanisms driving these trends and identify the problems of IB’s increasing exposure to the risks inherent in secondary data. We also discuss the implications related to neglecting individual-level data for theory advancement in IB, such as a disregard for novel secondary data opportunities at the individual level and the risk of reduced theoretical pluralism. In doing so, we substantially extend the debate initiated by Nielsen and colleagues (2020).
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1365-1374
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 22 June 2021.


  • Primary data
  • Secondary data
  • Individual-level research
  • Level of analysis
  • Methods diversity
  • Methodological rigor
  • IB paradigm

Cite this