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Cross-Cultural Business Communication Research: Find a Great Topic

A Topic Development Strategy

Occasionally, brilliant topic ideas for research will spontaneously fly into the head of a student. More often, however, you need a strategy to guide your thinking and generate more choices. Try the following:

Step 1: Identify the broad, core concepts of your research. If you are researching cross-cultural business communication, these might be culture, business, and communication.

Step 2: Create a table where each core concept has its own column, and add rows down the side for 'who, what, when, where, why, how' questions to get you going.

Step 3: Begin brainstorming the dimensions of each cell to generate sub-topics and areas of focus. Whose culture might we be interested in? What business? When is the communication taking place? Go until you run out of ideas.

Step 4: Combine the dimensions that interest you most by drawing a line through them, and formulate full-sentence questions as possible research topics.


Possible questions resulting from initial brainstorm:

  • How might culture affect the way that older Qataris communicate with and manage younger Qataris in the local workforce?
  • How much cultural awareness or training do typical CEOs working in the Middle East have?
  • How might cultural norms around non-verbal communication and body language affect Americans doing business in Southeast Asia?
  • How did traders from the far east and the middle east communicate with each other in the spice route or pearling days? What has changed, and what has stayed the same?


Background Research

There are a variety of sources for background research on a topic like cross-cultural business communication which can help you brainstorm ideas to fill out a chart like the one to the left, and come up with options for narrowing or choosing a topic.

General sources of background research usually do not need to be cited in your final report. You do not use them to gather information, document facts or build arguments - you just use them to generate ideas and keywords for your topic.

Some suggested sources include:

The table of contents in a book can provide a number of ideas or themes for narrowing your topic. Try your course textbook or browse for books about culture, communication and/or business in the library. You can also check the references list at the end of a book for ideas on further reading and resources.

General Encyclopedias
An encyclopedic reference, such as Wikipedia or Britannica Online can give you an overview of the many sub-topics in an area, and often you don't have to go much further than the article outline/table of contents.

Business Encyclopedias
A business encyclopedia might address culture and communication topics from a business angle. Check out this article on cross-cultural management from Wiley's Encyclopedia of Management, for example.