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Internationalization of SMEs: a systematic review of 20 years of research

Vivian Peuker Sardon Steinhäuser (), Fábio de Oliveira Paula () and Teresia Diana Lewe van Aduard Macedo-Soares ()
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Vivian Peuker Sardon Steinhäuser: Pontifical Catholic University
Fábio de Oliveira Paula: Pontifical Catholic University
Teresia Diana Lewe van Aduard Macedo-Soares: Pontifical Catholic University

Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 2021, vol. 19, issue 2, No 2, 164-195

Abstract: Abstract This article shares the results of a systematic review of the literature on internationalization of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based on bibliometric techniques. This review resulted in the identification of the main themes that have been the focus of researchers over 20 years, the emerging literature in the last 5 years, and a research agenda for future studies. It was also possible to propose a theoretical framework with the main influential factors in the various stages of the internationalization of SMEs. The analysis of 669 articles from 1998 to 2017 was carried out in two stages involving quantitative methods (bibliometric analysis and bibliographic coupling). The first analysis helped identify the main authors, journals, and countries that conducted research on internationalization of SMEs within these 20 years. In the second analysis, we divided the total period of 20 years into four sub-periods of 5 years, and the bibliographic coupling grouped similar articles in each period into research themes. The thematic clusters that emerged in the four sub-periods indicated that the more relevant themes of the cutting-edge literature were as follows: antecedents, patterns, and outcomes of the internationalization of SMEs. These themes were consistent with De Clercq et al.’s (2012) framework, making evident, by way of an exploratory method, the convergence of international business (IB) literature on the internationalization of SMEs, but with specific influential factors concerning SMEs.

Keywords: Internationalization of SMEs; Systematic review; Bibliographic coupling; Internationalisierung von Kleine Unternehmen; Systematische Literaturrecherche; Bibliografische Kopplung (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1007/s10843-020-00271-7

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