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International Business Research: The Real Challenges are Data and Theory

Hennart, Jean-François; Sutherland, Dylan

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Jean-François Hennart


We agree with Aguinis and Gabriel that, contrary to Eden and Nielsen, international business (IB) is not uniquely complex, but argue that it faces two unique challenges. First, because it deals with cross-country phenomena, IB data are less plentiful and reliable. Second, because IB uses many imported theories, and they tend to be influenced by the national environment of their authors, they often have, taken as is, limited applicability in many of the contexts IB studies. We illustrate our twin points by examining the secondary data used in IB to measure the economic activities of multinational enterprises outside their home country, both at the country level, using foreign direct investment (FDI) data from balance of payments statistics, and at the firm level, using firm-level databases such as Orbis. We document the serious shortcomings of FDI data and the problems encountered in using firm-level data. We then highlight some of the cultural biases inherent in Williamson’s version of transaction cost theory (TCT) but show how they can be overcome to arrive at a richer and more general theory that is applicable to a wider variety of contexts.


Hennart, J., & Sutherland, D. (2022). International Business Research: The Real Challenges are Data and Theory. Journal of International Business Studies, 53(2022), 2068-2087.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 14, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 30, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Aug 23, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 6, 2023
Journal Journal of International Business Studies
Print ISSN 0047-2506
Electronic ISSN 1478-6990
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 53
Issue 2022
Pages 2068-2087
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Published Journal Article (406 Kb)

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