Research Methods in the Leading Small Business-Entrepreneurship Journals: A Critical Review with Recommendations for Future Research

By Mullen, Michael R.; Budeva, Desislava G. et al. | Journal of Small Business Management, July 2009 | Go to article overview

Research Methods in the Leading Small Business-Entrepreneurship Journals: A Critical Review with Recommendations for Future Research


Mullen, Michael R., Budeva, Desislava G., Doney, Patricia M., Journal of Small Business Management


Small business and entrepreneurship scholars have made significant progress toward advancing the field and gaining recognition as an important domain of scientific inquiry. However, the authors suggest that a strong methodological foundation built on state-of-the-art research technologies is necessary to support further paradigmatic growth and maturation. Using Chandler and Lyun's study as a benchmark for research methods through the 1990s, the study critiques research methodologies used by small business and entrepreneurship researchers over the ensuing years. The analysis includes all 665 papers published between 2001 and February of 2008 in the Journal of Small Business Management, Journal of Business Venturing, and Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. The research outlines key methodological issues, assesses recent methodological practice, identifies current trends, and offers recommendations for researchers in adopting existing and emerging research technologies.

Introduction

This special issue of the Journal of Small Business Management focuses on technology and innovation in small business management and entrepreneurship research. In terms of theory, small business and entrepreneurship scholars have made significant progress toward advancing the field and gaining recognition as an important domain of scientific inquiry. However, in our view, a strong methodological foundation built on state-of-the-art research technologies is necessary to support further paradigmatic growth and maturation.

Although the field is relatively new, researchers have called for continuous evolution of research technologies (Chandler and Lyon 2001; Low and MacMillan 1988; Wortman 1987) for more than two decades. In a review of the first decade of significant contributions to entrepreneurship research, Wortman (1987) identified major shifts in the nature and scope of the field, research design, and methodology. Wortman's assessment of empirical research revealed that sample sizes ranged from very small to very large, data were collected primarily through interviews and questionnaires, few new measurement instruments were developed, and statistical methods for analyzing data were primarily unsophisticated, such as correlations and t-tests. However, Workman saw an evident shift toward more sophisticated methods, such as mathematical modeling, multiple regression, and cluster and factor analyses.

Low and MacMillan (1988) evaluated entrepreneurship research in terms of purpose, theoretical perspective, focus, level of analysis, time frame, and methodology. They admonished researchers to pursue more scientific approaches to the study of entrepreneurship phenomena. Specifically, they recommended that researchers include a clear statement of purpose, examine and explicitly state all theoretical assumptions, explore new theoretical perspectives, explain rather than just describe, employ multi-level analysis, strive for longer time frames, and address issues of causality.

More than a decade later, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice (ET&P) dedicated a special issue to past developments and the future of entrepreneur-ship research. General conclusions were that although the field had not progressed as far and fast as expected (Low 2001), lacked focus (Ucbasaran, Westhead, and Wright 2001), and failed to explore multiple levels of analysis (Davidsson and Wiklund 2001), some methodological and theoretical progress had been made (Chandler and Lyon 2001; Aldrich and Martinez 2001). Of particular interest to the current research, Chandler and Lyon (2001) discussed whether the methodologies and measurements employed in entrepreneurship research in the 1990s were sufficiently robust to ensure adequate progression of the field. They concluded that although entrepreneurship research was increasingly gaining methodological sophistication, it was still far from providing a solid methodological base for theory development and confident normative recommendations. …

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