Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tunnels, lights, and bottomless pits...

The past week has brought some interesting changes in my attitude towards this thesis. Here's a brief summary:

Tuesday: "Why can't I find any good research on my topic? Seriously, does anyone care about this?"

Then, after talking to the reference-desk research ninjas in the library and getting some good help, I arrived at:

Wednesday: "Wow... so there's a ton of research on this topic. Ummm... where do I start?"

I found a couple hundred peer-reviewed articles all published within the last decade, selected about 20 and set them aside for reading. After briefly skimming skimming through a few, then selecting one which I read thoroughly and took some notes on/quotes from, I have come to:

Monday: "Good Lord there is so much research that's been done in this area! Now I kind of feel like a poser for wanting to learn more about this..."

The truth is, so much has been done in the area of international and cross-cultural management, that I really don't feel like I have anything that I can contribute to the field--no new angle to take or perspective to explore. I know, I know--this is a paper for an undergraduate degree, and I may be naive or overambitious to think that at this point I could actually contribute to my field in a meaningful way. I also understand that for the purpose of demonstrating how much I've learned and for the fulfillment of this requirement for graduation, my eyes need not gaze upon so lofty a goal, but I have to admit that I would feel a little lame if my paper was just basically a lit review with a by-now-common-sense conclusion.

Still, I suppose I must admit that it's not my fault that culture has become a rather hot issue in management as of late, and that my interest in learning more about it--given that circumstance--would seem to indicate that my natural curiosities propel me in the direction of smart, career-focused educational goals. Also, I have to admit that even a literature review, if it is well-written and comprehensive in its scope, would be an incredibly useful educational experience.

With all of that in mind, I've begun to wonder if perhaps I shouldn't narrow my scope even more. Specifically, I've toyed with the idea of adding the words "Eastern European" in there somewhere--as in "The impact of Eastern European culture on the internal operations of multinational corporations: cross-cultural management in former Soviet states."

"Why?" I ask me.

Well, for starters, it's a lot more specific.

"Ok, but why former Soviet states?"

Any given topic becomes ten times more interesting the moment you can tie it to the former Soviet Union and invoke images of the cold war.

"Seriously? You just want it to be more interesting?"

OK, I also lived in Russia for two years, and I think my personal experiences and observations can help to validate or challenge research that's already been done on the topic.

"Все ясно."

They won't understand that.

"I said 'gotcha.' "



  1. Yes indeed, those reference librarians can be helpful.

    And yes, your original topic was too broad. It's likely that your new one is too broad as well, but your moving in the right direction. The key now is to move in that direction fast!

    If you're lucky, three or four articles will come together to give you an even more focused start. I like the idea of using your Russian experience as a base for this.

    So, push now for a good focused question you'd like to answer.

  2. Matt,

    not only should you narrow it down, you might find it helpful to narrow even a bit further. For instance, we know that the former Soviet states do not have uniform experience of multinationals, so one way to get to the focused question you really need to make this fly might be to divide the former Soviet states into those in which cross-cultural management has developed rather successfully and those in which it has not, and then ask what cultural differences had the greatest impact or, in other words, what was the difference between states where things have gone smoothly and states where they have not?