Help me choose a MBA research paper topic - due in two weeks...
April 6, 2014 10:06 AM   Subscribe

What is the best topic with lots of reference material that deals in International Business Ethics? Something like a review on international bribery or the sale of vaccines or baby formula for profit. I'm looking for the topic that will be the easiest to write because there is so much reference material available.

In my International Business MBA class, my professor assigned a term paper because we will all be missing the exam day due to a closing school (They reschedule the exam day but he has a trip to india). This was on Friday, and it is due on next Monday (8 days).

Regardless of fairness, I am having trouble finding a idea with a lot of source material. I need to write 15-30 pages and hope to find at least 15 good sources (journal entries or books) that I can use to write my paper.

I have a bad grade in the class, but the final was worth 35% of the grade and so I can make up a lot of ground with it.

(topic): Group 7 Area: Legal and Ethical Dimensions in International Business
-Bribery and Corruption in International business (Initiatives such as the U.S Foreign Corrupt Practices act, OECD ant bribery convention)

focus on controversial business practices in specific industries e.g. - Aids drugs in developing countries
Fair trade initiatives

If you have ANY ideas for helping me write my paper smoothly, topics, sources, or tips, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it. Thank you.
posted by bbqturtle to Education (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The classic first step for this is to go to your school's library and talk to the research librarian. This is exactly the kind of thing they can help you with - finding a great topic, and finding tons of good resources on it.

In addition to the topics you mentioned, offhand a few that I've heard a lot about:
- Coca Cola company's business practices around the world
- labor issues at clothing manufacturing companies, like the ones that were associated with the factory disaster in Bangladesh
- immigrant labor being exploited in the building boom in UAE
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

The one thing that springs to mind for me is the Nestle baby formula scandal, about selling in third world countries. Supplanting mother's breast milk for formula in clinics and hospitals around the world. Selling based on how modern formula was, even though most mother's couldn't afford formula and didn't have access to clean water to mix the formula.

It resulted in a lot of infant mortality, and ultimately a boycott of Nestle products and some world class terrible PR.

It came to light in 1977, so there is a lot of information out there, especially with a look-back at the times.

Also, because your classmates aren't crones like I am, they may not know of it or have it pop up on "international ethical issues" when googling, (although it might.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:52 AM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

GE selling ultrasound machines in India, which were frequently used for sex determination and ended up enabling large-scale female feticide.
posted by emkelley at 11:06 AM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, other tips for writing an academic paper:

1) Just pick a general topic and get started. Don't dither around for more than a day or so about which is the very best topic to work on.

2) When you think you've got a topic, go narrower. Students almost always pick a topic that is too broad to be addressed in a reasonably complete way in the space you have, and the paper will almost always be better if it focuses on a narrower question than the first one you come up with. For example, restrict your case study to just one company, one country, one aspect, responses to one event, or considering just the ethical questions raised by one theory that you've covered in class, etc.

3) Once you do this, talk to your professor about whether your topic seems like the right scope of question for this project.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:32 AM on April 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you want to write a good paper, choose something with nuance, where it isn't so obvious that the company was unquestionably evil. Also, you want to make sure that the issue was discussed in academic business journals, not just in the regular news.

There should be TONS of stuff as you long as you choose an issue that's at least a couple of years old (it takes a while for the academic publishing cycle to produce what news reports).

But, instead of choosing a very narrow topic and then looking for articles, perhaps choose an industry or company first. Then, go through your library's website to a business database. There's a database called Business Source that should work for this. Type in the name of the company or industry, click the box for "peer reviewed" articles, and see what you get.

If you google around for this, you'll find a lot less than if you go right to your library's website.

And if this sounds overwhelming or confusing, then, yes, get thee to your library. This is what we librarians do.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:41 AM on April 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

As a professor who occasionally allows students to write a paper in lieu of the final, let me toss you a suggestion. Take your syllabus and that is your outline. Cover your topic as a case study which applies the course topics. Tying to the course materials is particularly important for a student who has not demonstrated mastery of the topic. Based on the fact that you have a bad grade in the class, I'm thinking that professor would probably lump you into that category.

Also, 15 sources is quite meager for a paper of 15-30 pages. If that's what the prof requested, then fine. I would consider a cite per page to be cursory high school level research. Books are probably excluded based on your timeline, I'd focus on journal articles which you can read and digest quickly. At the graduate level, I expect students to be able to synthesize materials so one citation may include a bunch of cited authors.

For a topic, I'd look at international bribery policies of a company. A company may have a zero tolerance for bribery for US transactions, but may accept/encourage bribes where they are culturally expected.
posted by 26.2 at 12:37 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who assigns a research paper to students every semester, let me caution you against choosing a topic that seems easy because many articles have already been written about it. Those topics may be a) harder to work with, since you have to read more sources to find the ones that will be useful to you, b) more emotionally loaded, so the sources that you find may be driven more by emotion than by usable information; and c) because of a) and b), less likely to get you a good grade than a less well-known topic.
posted by chicainthecity at 12:45 PM on April 6, 2014

I think the FCPA treatment of bribery is interesting. It makes bribery illegal except where bribery is part and parcel of the local culture. It's a neat little compromise.
posted by jpe at 4:04 PM on April 6, 2014

In general I would encourage people not to write about vaccines if they don't have a deep background in vaccines. FCPA is good - I wrote a paper on that once and it's reasonably easy to research.
posted by lakeroon at 6:59 PM on April 6, 2014

ITAR and ethics in international arms trade might be a fun niche to focus on.
posted by slateyness at 8:16 PM on April 6, 2014

FCPA is interesting, particularly when the "bribe" is non-monetary. Read some of the discussions re: JPMorgan's "Sons and Daughters" program in China, which is currently the focus of a US investigation. Should give you some interesting ideas.
posted by ewiar at 6:57 AM on April 7, 2014

I went to the librarian with all of the ideas, and she helped me settle on nestle in Africa. Thanks!

Also-the homework gods smiled on me and my final draft isn't due for 3 weeks after all!
posted by bbqturtle at 12:51 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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