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A review of research methods in entrepreneurship 1985-2013

Seonaidh McDonald (Institute for Management, Governance and Society, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Bee Ching Gan (ELM Graduate School, HELP University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Simon S Fraser (Centre for Entrepreneurship, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Adekunle Oke (Institute for Management, Governance and Society Graduate School, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Alistair R. Anderson (Centre for Entrepreneurship, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 5 May 2015




The purpose of this paper is to address the research questions: which methodologies and data gathering methods are employed by researchers publishing in top entrepreneurship journals, and how has this changed over time?


The data gathering methods of research published in five top entrepreneurship journals between 1985 and 2013, a period of nearly three decades, were recorded.


The data demonstrate that entrepreneurship research is dominated by positivist approaches and data gathering methods, but that this picture is changing over time. The data also reveal differences in methods used in research published in North American and European journals.

Research limitations/implications

It is argued that increased discussion of the limitations, benefits and implications of research methods is needed across the field as a whole. It is concluded that although there is some methodological reflexivity in the field of a macro, abstract nature, there is little at the micro level of individual research designs.


There is a number of existing reviews of methods in the field but none over such a long time period that include such a large corpus of papers. Of particular value to scholars engaged in debates about the proportions and merits of different research methods is the identification of long-term trends away from primary data gathering in general and survey approaches in particular. Debates surrounding the existence of different regional “schools” of entrepreneurship will be informed by the differing patterns of methods found in the five outlets included in the study.



The authors wish to thank Sarah Drakopoulou Dodd and Sarah Jack for their insightful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


McDonald, S., Gan, B.C., Fraser, S.S., Oke, A. and Anderson, A.R. (2015), "A review of research methods in entrepreneurship 1985-2013", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 291-315.



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