As a previous student in International Business & Business Administration (MBA), I remember the hardest part of the whole study program. That was to pick a topic for my masters’ degree.
And I can remember the lack of help I got from searching online using search terms such as:
- International Business Master Topic Suggestions
- Business Master topic help
- ….and so on
So I decided to make this article in order to make it easier for students to pick a topic. It took me about two weeks before I could finally decide. And that was somehow “wasting” time that I could use for proper research or writing.
So now I’m here to help you. This is your lucky day. 🙂
The previous article for Inspiration: Environmental Studies Topic Help
I have written an article like this before. And it turned out to become my most popular article of all time. The article is called “Environmental/Sustainability bachelor & master thesis topic help” and is being read by hundreds of students every month.
From what you can see in the comment section of that article, I’ve helped a lot of students pick their topic on their bachelor or master topic in environmental studies:
It actually became so popular that I had to stop answering some of them. It took waaay too much of my precious time.
However, I’m not done helping students. Let’s get back to the topic of this article. Let me give you some inspiration to what you can write about as a bachelor or masters’ student in business or international business. 🙂
What are the main categories in this article?
Just so you know, there are the master/bachelor thesis topics that I’m gonna discuss in this article:
|1. Innovation||How does companies deal with innovation? Which elements can improve – and which can damage making innovative products and services?|
|2. Work culture||Globalization has lead to people from different cultures working together. I found it extremely interesting to see what this means for most companies – and which challenges that occur in an international work environment.|
|3. Online marketing||Most companies spend most of their marketing budget online. However, only a few of them have really any idea of what they’re doing. I’m super interested in e-commerce – and have come up with some brilliant topics within this category.|
|4. “Traditional” marketing||Should companies still use billboards and newspaper ads? Is TV marketing dead? Will fashion companies one day admit that the 10,000$ bags they’re selling is purely a marketing stunt?|
|5. Topics about the environment||Global warming will have a huge impact on how we live our lives. To be honest, it already has. When people need to change their way of living, businesses need to change their way of making products and offer services.|
|6. General||In addition to these categories, I came up with some random (but highly interesting) topics that you can write about. I could not fit them into one of the other five categories.|
Within every topic, there will be several specific topic suggestions that will help you to pick something that you are interested in.
Please note that you are not limited to write about something within these categories. These are just “my own notes” that I found particularly interested when I was writing my master thesis. You’re also free to choose anything within statistics, accounting, logistics, etc.
I just found these topics quite boring. 🙂
Topic suggestions for International Business or Business Administration students
Let’s get straight to it. These are (some of) the good topics that I considered during the two weeks that I did extensive research every day.
1. Innovation in domestic or multinational companies
Topic: How does backshoring affect innovation?*
If you haven’t looked up “backshoring” yet, it’s about time. This is a way of doing business that is becoming more and more popular among European and American companies.
It’s a concept where companies have previously used cheap labor in Africa/South East Asia for their production. But due to various reasons, they have chosen to either build their own manufacturing or re-locate to a factory close to their own headquarter.
Backshoring might be more expensive. Yet, it can be helpful in regards to innovation, quality control, communication, and production speed.
*= I actually ended up writing about this topic. I interviewed a couple of Norwegian companies and asked them this question: “Is it more difficult to develop your product and be innovative when your manufacturer is placed in China compared to having them in Scandinavia/Norway?”.
This is an interesting topic that should be researched even more. 🙂
Video: Back shoring companies in the UK
This short video features real life examples on companies that have backshored from India/China to the UK:
Topic: Are companies in Europe and the US more innovative compared to companies in other parts of the world?
Another topic that I find highly interesting.
Researching this specific topic could be done by looking at the e-commerce landscape in the US versus in China.
A great example would be to see Alibaba versus Amazon.
These are two major players in the e-commerce industry that require innovation to survive.
But is the case that they’re just “stealing” products from each other? If so: who is the “criminal”? 🙂
You can almost go into every type of business that is being done by Chinese and American companies. It should be quite easy to spot a trend on where the innovation happens.
Topic: From some businesses that died out (Kodak, Blockbuster, etc.), what did they do wrong in terms of innovation? How could they have survived? Why did Netflix crush Blockbuster in the end?
You have to remember that a bachelor or master thesis doesn’t necessarily have to be about the future.
Looking back at historical cases “with new eyes” can be just as powerful. Or you can apply this mindset to existing business cases.
E.g., “What does Facebook/Instagram/Amazon/Nike/Adidas have to come up with in regards to innovative products in order to keep their market position?”
When I studied some innovation courses as a part of my masters’ degree, we looked back at some of these companies that had failed. Many of them had failed because they refused to follow the technological development in their niche.
Ultimately, we looked at specific questions like:
- When was the time that they should have taken action in order to “update” their business practices?
- Who (which leader in the organization) should have called the shots?
- What other companies took their place and customers – and how did they do that?
You don’t even have to answer all of these questions. Your master thesis can easily be just answering one of these questions about one single company. Believe me: it’s an awful lot to research if you find the right case. 🙂
Relevant Youtube video about “the rise of Netflix and fall of Blockbuster”:
2. Work culture in international businesses
When I went to university in Denmark, I was enrolled in a course called “organizational behavior”. At first, I thought it was boring. Frankly, I was more interested in numbers, business, and finance.
But then I started to understand how important it is for a business that people are able to work together. And when I moved to Shanghai to work in a company that had 200 employees from ~30-40 different countries, I understood how vital it was that you are able to find common ground with people from different countries and cultures.
I’ve come up with some interesting ideas that you could explore more within this sub-topic:
Topic: People from which countries are seen as most difficult to work with – and why?
This might be a controversial topic. And the findings are not something that you should necessarily publish in something public magazine. People can get really defensive if you try to label a group as “hard-working” or “not-hard-working”.
However, there are ways to conduct this research without stepping on anyone’s’ toes.
But if you get together a focus group of 5-6 people that have worked with the international business for 20+ years, I am sure they have some opinion of which nationalities might be more challenging to collaborate with. You should try to put together a focus group like that to get great results.
Or you could do this experiment:
|Group of people||Research question|
|5 Asian businessmen that has worked internationally||“What do you find most difficult by working with people from America/Europe?”|
|5 European/American businessmen that has worked internationally||“What do you find most difficult by working with people from Asia?”|
….now, believe me: THAT would be one h… of a master thesis! 🙂
Documentary recommendation: “American Factory” on Netflix
This is a brilliant documentary that features how American people find it hard to work with Chinese people. And how Chinese people struggle to work with American people.
It’s a brutually honest, yet quite well-made documentary that you have to check out if you’re interesting in such a topic. I also believe it will help you to come up with some sub-topics that you can write about on your thesis:
Topic: Which problems do European/American companies face when they try to conquer a market that they have no experience in operating in?
Every year, thousands of companies try to push their products into South East Asian countries.
A lot of them fail.
And a lot has to do with lack of culture competences and local understanding of the market.
Contact a company that has (tried to) taken their products to a foreign country and interview them about the difficult process.
Reasons why Western companies fail when entering the Asian market
I have a Swedish friend that works in a company in Shanghai. This company helps Scandinavian businesses to conquer the Chinese market.
I called him up and asked what most companies struggle with (which is a super nice topic for a bachelor/master thesis). He said the following ones are most likely to occur:
- Lack of understanding of the needs of the Asian customer
- Their logo not being “Asian friendly” (rebranding is needed!)
- Lack of understand on how Asian people shop online and why they do it
- Trademark issues
- Unrealistic sales projections*
*= I often hear that “oh, yeah…it lives 2,5 billion people in South East Asia. If we only get 0,1 % market share, we will become rich!“. And that is probably the most stupid thing you can ever hear a business person say.
Topic: Is it harder or easier to work among similar companies in a “coworking space”?
If you don’t know what a “coworking space” is, I’ll try to explain it in a few words. It’s literally a building with a lot of small businesses. Many of them are start-ups, and many of them are running IT-driven business (e-commerce websites, app development, etc.).
The concept is meant to help businesses to connect with other businesses working on similar projects.
Wework is the type of company that gathers a lot of small, ambitious companies in one place. Many people tend to say that it’s healthy to be working “around people that you’re similar to”. Other people suggest it’s just a hassle and might even be confusing/annoying.
You should find some companies that have gone from a traditional office to a coworking space. What did they gain? And more importantly: what did they lose? Are their employees more or less focused compared to before?
My own experience: Wework in Shanghai
I was on such a journey. Our company struggled a bit financially and needed to reduce cost.
The solution was to move out of our (beautiful and large) office and move into WeWork.
And I loved it.
But I will also say it had the effect that I spent more time talking to people from other companies. That can be good and bad – it depends what you’re talking about. In addition to that, I also started to drink more beer (free flow beer in WeWork Shanghai!). 😉
You could look into things like:
- Are employees more or less happy working in their own office versus a coworking space?
- Should companies be afraid that their employees get “hijacked” by other companies in the same coworking space?
- Overall productivity in the different office types
And if you want to know how Wework, one of the largest coworking companies in the world, make money – feel free to watch this video:
Topic: How do companies working in different time zones deal with working on the same projects?
When I was working in Shanghai, we had an office in Turin. It was a hassle. They had to come in at 08:00 to join our meeting at 14:00. And from there, you only had a couple of hours to work together before our day.
As you can see, it’s quite some distance between Turin and Shanghai:
It sucked out so much efficiency from various projects. I am certain that we lost a lot by having such a structure.
But how much? And what did we really lose? Efficiency? Friendship? Was it easier to see conflicts across the offices (oh yes, it was!)?
I would love to see someone writing a master’s or bachelor thesis on that.
This is a type of topic where you have to contact a multinational company and ask to interview them out. It would also be very interesting to see if different people in the organization would struggle with different issues in regards to the time zone different.
3. Online marketing/e-commerce
I’m an online marketing guy. I’ve been making and selling websites for the last 10 years. Therefore, I strongly considered writing one of these topics:
Topic: Will physical stores eventually die out?
It’s a real thing. People shop more online.
This trend has even gotten a quite interesting name: “retail apocalypse” (Wikipedia link).
Researching this topic would be super cool if you could find the right angle.
You can easily contact one retail store that struggles a lot – and then find their “online competitor” and compare what the different businesses think of the future.
That would be a super nice idea for a master or bachelor thesis in business.
Another interesting angle would to look into business that originally was 100 % physical stores, but have gradually turned digital. For example:
- Grocery shopping
- Photography shops (those where you went to get your photos printed out)
According to Spendmenot.com, about 10 % of US consumers happen to “now and then” purchase groceries online. About 20 years ago, that number was 0 %.
Believe me: such a change is quite dramatic for the overall grocery store market. Businesses need to change their mentality in order to survive – even those who sell milk and bread. 🙂
NBC News: Shopping Malls struggle due to Online Shopping
Topic: Is “floating office space” the future for e-commerce businesses?
As I do all my work online, it doesn’t really matter if I work in Copenhagen, Jakarta, or Washington.
I mean; apart from the time difference. But is “floating office space” really a thing – or will it decrease the efficiency of workers?
Deloitte has published an interesting article about “mobile employees”. It might be worth looking into if you’re interested in this topic. 🙂
Sub-topic: Home offices during the pandemic
Some evil virus spread around to the world. Business had to think of how they could be efficient while government lockdowns were getting serious.
If I was to write something on this topic, I would contact one of these companies and ask them:
- Was it hard/easy to have your employees working from home?
- What was the hardest part?
- Do you feel like the team members were able to collaborate in the same way as they did before?
- Do you feel that people are more relaxed and “chill” (not efficient) when they are working from home?
In order to get the most accurate results, I would suggest that you contact someone in a high-ranked position. 🙂
Topic: The big American companies control all your online advertisement money. How bizarre and dangerous is that?
I have been working with online marketing for ten years. This might be common knowledge, but I am breaking it to you anyway: the “online marketing game” is dominated by a few companies.
And you rely on these companies 100 % in order to succeed if you want to sell something online.
Right now I am working in a company in Norway as a digital marketing manager.
If European companies want to sell something online (even in their own country), they would be forced to use services from these companies:
|Google Ads||To get traffic from search engines.|
|Facebook Ads||To get social traffic from Facebook and Instagram.|
|Amazon PPC||To boost your sales on Amazon.|
What do all these companies have in common?
- They are American.
- They are GROWING.
- EU countries are not happy with how they pay (or don’t pay…) tax.
Video: “Is Amazon Too Big?”
This short (14 minutes long) Youtube video is taking up a very important issue. Have the American tech companies grown so big that it’s bad for the employees, the users (me and you) and for innovation from other companies?
Maybe. You better have a look if this interests you.
Other quick e-commerce business bachelor/master thesis topics
In addition to those three topics, which I find super interesting, you can also look at things within e-commerce like:
- The power of Amazon/Alibaba (monopoly?)
- How has online shopping changed peoples’ consumer behavior?
- Are people more or less likely to return a product if it’s bought online? And how does that influence the economy of a business?
- Is traditional TV advertising “dead” because of digital channels?
- Some companies have tried to sell groceries like cheese, bread and meat online. Is that a sustainable business model? If yes; why?
…I also hope you might be interested in some of the topics if you want to look into online marketing/e-commerce. 🙂
4. Marketing (“traditional marketing”)
About 50 % of my international business class wrote their thesis about something related to marketing.
So I got a lot of input from my friends. But I was also able to come up with some ideas on my own.
Some of these topics is also something that I’ve come up with after I started to work profesionally.
Topic: Can you find some examples of how a company calculates the ROI of a billboard poster on a bus?
By using different tools, it’s very easy to calculate ROI (return on investment) of online marketing. In traditional marketing, it’s almost impossible.
So why do companies keep spending money on billboards on Times Square New York as they have no idea on knowing what to gain from that?
Topic: Red Bull!!! The most interesting company in the world from a marketing perspective.
Red Bull is a lot more than a smi-decent energy drink. It’s also one of the most interesting marketing cases in the world.
Medium.com has published an article on why Red Bull succeed with traditional marketing. They say “no” to online marketing and “yes” to stuff like:
- Buying football clubs and rebranding their shirts into “Red Bull posters”
- Sponsoring every single ski athlete that can be found out there
- Creating mega events in extreme sport, like this one:
I am not sure how easy it is to go into the Red Bull office and ask some of their employees to collaborate with you.
However, there’s tremendous data to be found online without contacting them. You can easily write your master or bachelor thesis about their marketing model without being personally in touch with that company.
Topic: In the women fashion world: how much is branding and how much is quality differences?
A Gucci bag can cost about 1000-10,000 USD. Some random bags from H&M cost a fraction of that.
How much of that price difference can be put in correlation with a quality difference? And why do women tend to always go back to the “big players” in the industry to buy luxury clothing and bags?
This topic could be investigated in several ways. You could either ask the audience (women shoppers). Or you could get in touch with companies that either spend A LOT or those who spend NOTHING on branding campaigns. And ask them why they take different approaches to succeed in the women fashion market.
5. Environmental topics (sustainability/global warming & business)
Writing about environmental topics in business is not only “hot” these days. It’s also super interesting.
Instead of writing topic suggestions, I’ll post some questions that will hopefully make you think:
- What happens to the business of a farmer in Texas when global warming destroys all his crops every second year?
- ..and who is going to take the bill to keep that farmer alive? The US Government?
- Is there an increasing market for eco-friendly products?
- Does it really matter whether or not most people use eco-friendly toothbrushes, or is this just a marketing trick to sell people the idea that they are helping the world? (=Greenwashing)
- To stop producing oil would be a fabulous achievement for the overall CO2 emissions. But it would be a disaster for oil-dependent export countries like Norway. What would it mean for the Norwegian economy if they stopped producing and exporting oil?
Just like Covid-19 hit all businesses globally, global warming and climate change will do the same. It just takes more time. But you can already now start to predict what will happen in the future.
Businesses that will particularly struggle on a warmer globe
At some point, we will all need to adapt. But these are some of the businesses that will see significant increased cost or even die out:
Less grapes give less wine. Once global warming really hits, farmers will struggle to make grapes.
Governments will make the flight tickets more expensive. It will also become gradually more expensive to take one product from one place to another.
People will (hopefully) use more public transportation. Car companies need to to develop eco-friendly cars…or go bankrupt. 🙂
Businesses selling red meat
People don’t want to eat red meat anymore!
A study from the UK showed that 50 % of all young brits have tried to go vegan. Bizarre numbers!
Companies selling ski trips
Where did all that snow go?*
* = This article in the Washington Post is frightening. It tells us that we have lost about 15 winter days if we compare 1960-1990 to 1990-2020. Obviously, that is bad news for the companies that promote ski and snowboard trips to Aspen.
Pro-tip for your thesis: You could either investigate how these businesses have already seen a decline in revenue – or how they plan to cope with global warming in the future.
On the flip side, you have businesses that might grow as a result of global warming!
- Businesses selling eco-friendly products
- Any business connected with renewable energy sources
- Electric cars
- Bike companies
6. General business/international business topics
There are some topics that I considered and that I struggle to categorize. They might not be 100 % within my interest areas, which is probably why I didn’t look more into them.
Topic: Is our current education system wrong? Do we educate master students that end up doing something completely irrelevant for many years of their lives?
I have seen people go out with master degrees in marketing – only to work in a nursing home for the next three years. We might have come to the point where government-funded education isn’t the way to go. Back in the days, almost no one took education.
These days, a master’s degree in business is something that’s almost required to even be considered as a trainee in a global company.
Video: Is our generation overeducated and unemployed?
Topic: Statistical analysis: Will the housing prices in large European cities ever go down?
The prices have increased since the 1960’s. And there’s been a high number of people who have said: “oh yeah, they will go down eventually!”.
But as more and more people want to live in the city center, when will this development stop?
In order to write such a topic, you would need to use some heavy statistical tool like SPSS. If you aren’t comfortable with that; skip this type of “financial projecting” thesis.
Topic: What happens to the customer satisfaction rate and prices when a private company overtakes a government-owned service?
Let’s take private hospitals in Scandinavia as an example. In the old days, they were all owned by the government. These days, some private-owned companies have built hospitals and “health check services” in the large cities.
You can now get a health check the same day without having to wait. But it will cost you a lot of money.
- How did that affect the overall customer satisfaction rate?
- Is it “fair” that rich people can go and visit a private hospital while poor people have to wait in line?
- Have the prices gone up? Or down?
Topic: Will there be a time where we go back to “cheap” smartphones? In which direction are the phone companies (Huawei/Apple/Samsung) taking us?
According to Statista.com, the average smartphone price has increased for many many years.
And it doesn’t seem to stop.
Is it a market for cheap smartphones? Or does the market only want expensive phones with better cameras, better storage space and nicer design?
Do you have other ideas on topics to write about? Or questions?
If so, please let me know in the comment section below. The comment section of the other article is mainly used by students to ask for help. And frankly, I’m not sure if I do have the time to answer (at least all) of the requests that come in.
However, I would love to hear from previous International Business or Business students about which topic they ended up writing about – and WHY they ended up writing about that topic.
PS! This whole article took me about 8 hours to write, format and publish. So I am super happy if you could share it with your friends (if you found it useful) or post it on any forum/blog so that people can see it. 🙂
This is one of the blog posts that I really never wanted to end writing. It brings back all the memories of being a business administration/international business student. Such a nostalgic feeling. So to all students out there: have fun! When you start to work, you start to understand the meaning of the word “busy”. 😉