Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Scholarly Communities in Entrepreneurship Research: A Co-Citation Analysis

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Scholarly Communities in Entrepreneurship Research: A Co-Citation Analysis

Article excerpt

A debate persists about the distinctiveness of entrepreneurship research. Entrepreneurship research is seen as fragmented and its results are considered noncumulative, handicapping the evolution of the field as a respected scholarly discipline. In this article we conduct a bibliometric analysis to shed light on these issues. We analyze co-citation patterns of entrepreneurship-related articles published in the years 2000 to 2004 and identify the 25 most central research streams in entrepreneurship. We describe these groups and investigate their mutual relationships. Although the United States represents by far the greatest source of entrepreneurship articles, other countries represent significant sources of research in specific streams.


Research on entrepreneurship has been often characterized as diverse, fragmented, and still being in ferment (Gartner, 2001; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000). There is no widely accepted categorization of different streams of entrepreneurship research, and it is not even clear if distinct streams exist. Such lack of clear research trajectories risks inhibiting the growth of entrepreneurship as a scholarly endeavor (Zahra, 2005). Although a considerable diversity in the field across countries has been noted, there is little systematic knowledge regarding country- or continent-specific differences in entrepreneurship research (Aldrich, 2000).

This study addresses these gaps in our understanding of the field by mapping out the structure of entrepreneurship literature. We do so by examining highly cited references in contemporary entrepreneurship research. Our data set consists of all articles published during the last five years in leading journals with entrepreneurship-related content. Although our article is descriptive in nature, we utilize quantitative analysis to identify and analyze different groups of closely connected articles. Specifically, popular references are divided into distinct and coherent groups utilizing a novel algorithm designed specifically for bibliometric use. The characteristics of those groups are also described.

Our research reveals 25 distinct groups of studies, attesting to the diversity and fragmentation of past entrepreneurship research. (1) However, because of space limitations, we only present graphically the 10 most cited groups. We then describe the characteristics for each of these groups. Finally, we show how different groups of studies relate to each other, and examine the recent trends in citation patterns across the groups.

Methodology and Data

Citation analysis is a major bibliometric approach (Osareh, 1996, p. 149) originating from information sciences. Although still relatively new, bibliometric analysis has also found some advocates in the field of entrepreneurship (Etemad & Lee, 2003; Ratnatunga & Romano, 1997). Bibliometric analysis is founded on the assertion that citations can be used as indicators of present and past activities of scientific work (Garfield, 1983, p. 180; Garfield, Sher, & Torpie, 1964, p. i; Small, 1973, p. 268).

Citation analysis has covered macro and micro studies. Macro studies are interested in the overall structure of disciplines and the laws that govern the evolution of science. Micro studies usually describe the structure and development of individual disciplines or schools of research and their interdependencies (Gmur, 2003, p. 30). Our study belongs to the micro-oriented stream of research.


To understand trends in entrepreneurship research, the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) of the ISI Web of Science was used to retrieve citation data. SSCI indexes 1,750 journals over 50 social science disciplines, adding approximately 60,000 new cited references per week. We initially searched for all articles with words beginning with "entrep *" in their abstract, title, or keywords from the ISI Social Sciences Index published during the 2000 to 2004 period. …

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