Workshop on qualitative entrepreneurship research

Traditionally theories of entrepreneurship have been mostly based on either quantitative research or hypothetical cases. The quantitative approaches either take the start-up as a black box and look at patterns of new venture formation in the economy as a whole or describe some aspects of starting up and small business management on the basis of information extracted by the means of a survey from a sample of entrepreneurs. However, in the last couple of decades qualitative research has been gaining ground in entrepreneurship studies as well, and this is an area where actor-network theory with its ethnographic and anthropological sensibilities could make some further contributions. Hence the EIASM workshop below might be of interest to our readers.


Brussels, 8-9 December 2011

In this second workshop of qualitative studies on in-depth studies on entrepreneurship we welcome papers that deal with entrepreneurship and small-business management and use qualitative research methodology. Especially papers with some methodological appraisal and use of innovative research approaches are in focus.

Over the past 15-20 years business economics research has experienced a rise in approaches labeled qualitative. This is the case at least in the Nordic countries and elsewhere in Europe. Many of these studies share similar challenges and opportunities: the position of the researcher in the research process, the special features of data gathering and, even more importantly, the analysis and interpretations of the data in the search for new understanding and contributions to the field. Positioning oneself as a researcher in the study, sometimes being part of field one studies himself/herself, as well as various ethical considerations are everyday life questions are faced by researchers during the process of research.

The production of knowledge and scientific “facts” has lately gained growing attention in scientific discussions and also in the study of enterprising and small business. From one point of angle, studying business and enterprises this even more apt to this pondering, because enterprises cannot be perceived directly, experienced as such, but only through theory and conceptualizations. The many lenses of seeing organizations are evident and have a profound impact on how we approach them, how we form the study design and not at least, which kind of study results we gain.

The whole field of organizations study is therefore highly determined by earlier knowledge, metaphors and concepts. Moreover, the position of the researcher in the study process is focused, and the whole process where the studies get done are seen in the vain of complex interactional relations where the subject of the research in fact gets done, and is not there ‘as such’. These tendencies open up room for researchers, who use qualitative approach, especially in-depth studies and cases as an empirical basis of their investigations.

Because qualitative studies do not usually start from a strict theory or model, reflexivity on the researcher’s part is required from the very beginning. The qualitative approach has sometimes been criticized for not being able to add to the knowledge in the studied field and ending up with isolated bits of knowledge and pieces of understanding. Formost it is easy to reply to these doubts. For instance we can say that the aim of this research usually is to outline contextual knowledge and overrid the requirements of generalizations, and that the subjectivity of the researcher is not a threat but a necessary starting point for a good social science based analysis. However, self-reflection is needed also in using qualitative research methodology and some of the critics should be taken seriously. For instance, without any methodological knowledge the researcher might be attracted to use qualitative research and do its data analysis in naïve ways. Questioning one’s own knowledge creation basics is part of good research.

In many US journals of management the majority of work is done using the quantitative approach, but more and more take in also qualitative good research papers. As well there is a growing number of journals that are based on qualitative research. Moreover, the polarity of quantitative and qualitative does not exist in a pure form but many ways is a simplification. This has always been the tradition in business case studies, which use several kinds of data and its analysis, qualitative as well as quantitative. The main aim is to understand the ‘case’ however it is restricted, and it is not just the use or non-use of numbers that differentiates research. The whole research process is important, starting from covering data collection, and ending to analysis and interpretation using also earlier theory.


We invite papers in the broad field of in-depth studies on entrepreneurship and small-business management. Themes include:

  • Findings of studies on entrepreneurship and small—business management using qualitative research methodology
  • Innovative approaches in qualitative research
  • In-depth studies and mixed methods
  • How to gain good theory out of qualitative in-depth studies? The challenge of theory building
  • Position of the researcher in the research process
  • Reflexivity and the production of the research subject
  • Subjectivity, rich data and analysis
  • The research community and the legitimization process of the study
  • Companies as partners: challenge and ethical questions
  • Using in-depth interviews
  • Diversity aspects: gender, ethnicity, age, culture as a basis of diversity
  • Female managers as leaders in small business
  • Cultures of companies as a in-depth study object
  • Triangulation and other sources for reliability
  • Study process: Thoughts on data collection, analysis, interpretation, and conclusions

To present a paper authors should submit a 2 page abstract that will be refereed by October 1 , 2011

Author notification will be sent before 15 October, 2011

Deadline for full papers is 18 November, 2011


  • Iiris AALTIO, Jyväskylä University and Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
  • Elisabeth SUNDIN, Linköping University, Sweden
  • Tarja RÖMER-PAAKKANEN, Jyväskylä University, Finland

More information on how to submit is here.

Conference on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and SMEs

The 1st International Conference in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and SMEs on 3rd and 4th of November 2011 at the Ecole de Management de Normandie, Caen, France will have a track that might be interesting to researchers of the social aspects of entrepreneurship. It’s the one called “Entrepreneurial organizing: Projects and processes” [PDF].

In this stream we will focus our attention on studies of how entrepreneurship is organized in practice. Our primary interest is neither in individual entrepreneurs nor in sociocultural settings, but rather how entrepreneurial work are expressed on a day-to-day basis in sociocultural settings.


Theoretically, we build this upon a process ontology implying a view of entrepreneurship as something constantly in emergence through series of social events. It is not a predictable and controllable series of events, however, it is rather a ‘never ending story’ of interactions that may take any imaginable or un-imaginable direction.


A core metaphor in the study of entrepreneurial processes is the notion of projects, i.e. entrepreneurial processes seen as time-limited, team-enacted series of events. What we want is to be able to view entrepreneurial processes as discontinuous, discernible and disaggregated series of events – as co-constructed by involved actors as limited in time, scope and social involvement.


Consequently, one important aspect of our suggested perspective is to study entrepreneurship as temporary organising processes.


Based on this, we invite papers relating to entrepreneurship in terms of processes, projects or organizing. Topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Empirical studies of innovative projects
  • Teamwork in entrepreneurial settings
  • Critical Management Theory perspectives on entrepreneurial organizing – The planning – creativity dilemma in entrepreneurial projects
  • Entrepreneurial leadership in interaction
  • Gendered practices of entrepreneurship and project

Even the term “actor network” gets a mention somewhere in there…