Paula Kyrö: The Paragidm and Methodological Choices in Scientific Research

This manuscript ponders over the paradigm discussion in science. It frames a structural approach to the paradigm which combines the ontological and epistemological levels to the concrete methodological choices. Explicating this chain of arguments in research helps to make consistent choices and thus adds the value of a study, and might even lead to its contribution.


The dynamic debate and a paradigm

The etymological roots for a paradigm can be found from the Greek “paradeigma” , “to set up as an example”, “para” refering to beside and “deiknynai” the meaning to show a paradigm that is a model or a pattern (Choi 1993, 32).

According to Kari E. Nurmi (2002) as a theoretical term ’a paradigm’ originally referred (and, of course, still refers) to a sets of categories for grammatical inflection (like cases, voice, mood tenses etc.) presenting an in principle mutually exclusive set of alternatives: only one of the available options reflects accurately the intended meaning of a word.

As a concept, however, “paradigm” is an outcome of an intensified discourse of the dynamics in science that has gained strength, especially in the latter decades of the 20th century. A tremendous growth of scientific knowledge has generated different suggestions about its nature, its relationship to surrounding reality and, on the other hand, to propositions on how this or relevant and valid knowledge, in general, is supposed to be acquired or created (Audi 1995, Feyerabend 1999, 1997, Kuhn 1962, Popper 1992/1959, Rorty 1989). This search has also produced new concepts or conceptual units larger than a theory or a method, helping us to take into account, for example, the school system and structure and the time span of the theory building. (e.g. Kuhn 1962, 247-248, Popper 1992, Rorty 1989). Paradigm and tradition, for example, are among the concepts generated for that purpose (Niiniluoto 1984). The concept of methodology also relates to these efforts.

A larger context for this debate is the philosophy of science that is centered, on the one hand, on methodology closely related to the theory of knowledge, and on the other hand, on the meaning and content of the posited scientific results closely relating to metaphysics. The philosophy of the social sciences consists of social phenomena as distinction from natural phenomena. It ponders over what is a good social explanation: is there a distinctive method for social research and, for example, what is the relationship between social and individual facts? It has both descriptive and prescriptive qualities. (e.g. Audi 1995)

In order to study the nature of a paradigm, we can learn from this dynamic debate of the development of scientific inquiry that basically has “challenged ‘the empiricists’ view towards the theory change as an ongoing smooth and cumulative process in which empirical facts, discovered through observation or experimentation, forced revisions in our theories and thus added to our ever-increasing knowledge of the world. It was claimed that, combined with this process of revision, there existed a process of intertheoretic reduction that enabled us to understand the macro in terms of micro, and that ultimately aimed at a unity of science”. (Audi 1995)

Popper (1992/1956) examined this problem in his world famous book “The Logic of Scientific Discovery”. He claimed that, from an epistemological perspective, science is not a system of certain, or well-established, statements; nor is it a system which steadily advances towards a state of finality. Our science is not knowledge (episteme): it can never claim to have attained truth, or even a substitute for it, such as probability. According to him the old scientific ideal of episteme – of absolutely certain, demonstrable knowledge – has proved to be an idol. He used the expression, a theories theory, describing the advance towards theories of an ever-higher level of universality. As a theory of rules for scientific method he applied the term “quasi-inductive”. It refers to a sort of interplay between a deductive and an inductive method. The idea of a theories theory and a quasi-inductive process are his proposition of scientific dynamics and structure (Popper 1992).

It should be noted that Popper’s main concern was the problem of cosmology: the problem of understanding the world – including ourselves, and our knowledge, as part of the world (Popper 1992,15). However, his main point in this context on the one hand, is the idea of science as a dynamic open-ended and open-minded process, and on the other, it explicates a need for larger conceptual units. As he expressed it, a theories theory or, from a methodological perspective, a theory of rules of scientific method.

Somewhat different, and perhaps an even more dynamic approach, concentrating more on the nature of the process, can be depicted in the writings of one of Popper’s earlier contemporaries, Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962), a French philosopher of science and a literary analyst. In his books “The New Scientific spirit”, 1934, and “Rational Materialism” 1953, he generated a dialectical and cyclical approach. For him, scientific knowledge proceeded through a dialectical process of reason and experience. He claimed that new scientific knowledge may lead to a fundamental reformulation of reality (The Columbia Encyclopedia 2002). He viewed science as developing through a series of discontinuous changes (epistemological breaks). Such breaks overcome epistemological obstacles: methodological and conceptual features of common sense or outdated science that block the path of inquiry (Audi 1995, 59). Bachelard offers us a dialectical process with reason and experience. This suggests that scientific knowledge is a cultural product, both describing and creating reality. The experience also binds his claim to reality and content. The problem is how can we identify the criteria for those phenomena in this cyclical process that are valuable enough to be further investigated, unless the experience itself defines it?

These discontinuities were moulded in Kuhn’s hand, years later, into the idea of a revolutionary development of paradigms. For Kuhn, the paradigm is a key component in the development of scientific knowledge. In his world-famous book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolution”, he ar-gues that scientific work and thought are defined by paradigms consisting of formal theories, classic experiment and trusted methods. Paradigms are conceptual world-views. (, Kuhn 1992) . Thus Kuhn was the scientist formulating the idea of a paradigm.

The starting point for Kuhn was the difficulties between the natural and social sciences. He explains it:

“Particularly I was struck by the number and extent of the overt disagreements between social scientists about the nature of legitimate scientific problems and methods. Both history and acquaintance made me doubt that practitioners of the natural sciences possess firmer or more permanent answers to such questions than their colleagues in social science. Yet, somehow the practice of astronomy, physics, chemistry, or biology normally fails to evoke controversies over fundamentals that today often seem endemic among, say psychologists or sociologists. Attempting to discover a source of this difference led me to recognise the role in scientific research of what I have since called ‘paradigms’ These I take to be universally recognised scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners. Once that piece of my puzzle fell into place, a draft of this essay emerged rapidly.” (Kuhn 1996, x)

As regards the philosophical bases it should be noted that Kuhn seems to found his concept of paradigm on the third branch within the philosophy of science, namely specific foundational questions arising out of the specific results, such as space-time theories and explanations in evolutionary biology. (The branches of the Philosophy of Science: Audi 1995, 611). His explanation of the dynamics of science also excludes the role of technological advance or of external social, economic, and intellectual conditions, that might make a difference in a paradigm discussion (Kuhn 1996). It could be argued that this might be important, especially for such phenomena as education and entrepreneurship which seem to emerge under or create certain economic and social conditions.

On the other hand, his conclusions regarding the questions, that should be asked, before science can reach a mature state, relate to two other basic branches of the philosophy of science: “Effective research scarcely begins before a scientific community thinks it has acquired firm answers to questions like the following: What are the fundamental entities of which the universe of composed? How do these interact with each other and with the senses? What questions will legitimately be asked about such entities and what techniques employed in seeking solutions? At least in mature sciences, answers (or full substitutes for answers) to questions like these are firmly embedded in the educational initiation that prepares and licenses the student for professional practice.” (Kuhn 1996, 5)

Kuhn’s ideas were not approved without criticism. Perhaps one of the most extreme one was presented by Feyerabend. His main thesis concerning the structure of science was that “the events and results that constitute the sciences have no common structure, there are no elements that occur in every scientific investigation but are missing elsewhere” (Feyerabend 1997, 280). Successful research does not obey general standards: “it relies now on one trick, now on another, and the moves that advance it are not always known to the movers. He was concerned about science’s ability to catch the reality. He claimed that philosophers complicated their doctrine, but they did not bring it closer to reality” (Feyerabend 1999, 282). Similar confusion seems to guide the work of pragmatists. They try to overcome the problem of dualism through action.

Even though these representatives of the dynamic approach to a scientific inquiry have different views, all of them still believe that there is not only one true and stable knowledge or one way of achieving that knowledge, but rather the reality and hence the way to inquire knowledge about it changes.

The core of this discussion around the emergence of a paradigm seems to relate to the complex interplay between scientific inquiry and its relationship to knowledge creation, i.e. epistemology, and to our ideas of the world and existence in it, i.e. ontology. As Niiniluoto suggested, it is a larger concept, that seems to gather, on the one hand, the philosophical bases for the phenomenon or a field of science being studied. Thus, it seems to deal with both, the very basic ideas of the world, human existence and knowledge, and methodological considerations that are deduced from these bases.

As Kuhn suggests, a paradigm means conceptual world-views, consisting of an agreement on formal theories, classic experiment and trusted methods. Concepts used by Popper were a theories and a theory of rules for a scientific method, while Bachelard concentrated more on an actual process of knowledge creation.

Thus, the paradigm seems to play a certain role of a mediator between philosophical bases and actual methods, and individual theories. It contains the theoretical bases defining the very nature of a phenomenon and the rules to gain knowledge about that phenomenon.

Thus, a paradigm is manifested as a group of theories and definitions suitable for describing the field of study, or in a large the phenomenon and a group of methods, suitable for studying this field.

From this perspective, choosing a method might lead to unintended results, unless it is deduced from philosophical bases. The reality emerging implicitly in conceptual and methodological choices might be quite different or even contrary to the actual intentions of the researcher.

Perhaps the paradigm understood as a mediator and gathering link between the philosophical bases and the actual definitions and methods, might serve as a tool to help choosing methods and theories.

A structural approach to the paradigm

The concepts dealing with the philosophical bases related to the paradigm are ontology and epistemology. Etymologically, “logos” refers “explanation” or “the word by which the inward thought is expressed, the inward thought itself”. (Audi 1995, McKechnie 1977) In Greek philosophy, it took on the meaning of “reason, thought of as constituting the controlling principle of the universe and as being manifested by speech” (McKechnie 1977). “-logy” refers to a specific kind of speaking like a doctrine, science, theory of” (emt.); and “onto-“ in Greek means existence or being.

Ontology originally referred to the branch in metaphysics dealing with the nature of being and reality (e.g. McKechnie 1977). In short, ontology refers to our ideas of reality and how it is constituted.

Epistemology, in turn, is interested in how we can acquire knowledge about that reality. The Greek word ”episteme”, refers to knowledge (e.g. McKechnie 1977). Epistemologists try to identify the essential, defining components of knowledge (Audi 1995).

Thus, both of these provide the bases for a paradigm or, vice versa, what we understand by a paradigm leads to ontological and epistemological assumptions.

The problems of defining, but at the same time the need to define epistemology in the context of paradigm and methodology, can be demonstrated through its “tripartite definition”, called “standard analyses” (for a description of epistemology see, e.g., Audi 1995). It means that epistemology consists of three elements, namely justified true beliefs, each of them having several different explanations.

  • Basically, the belief condition means that the knower must be related to the object of knowledge, with the idea, I know that, I believe that.
  • The truth condition has at least three basically different explanations:
  1. Truth as a correspondence = agreement , of some specified sort, between a proposition and an actual situation;
  2. Truth as a coherence = interconnectedness with the proposition with a specified system of propositions; and
  3. Truth as pragmatic cognitive value = usefulness of a proposition in achieving a certain intellectual goal.
  • Finally, the justification condition refers to the idea that the knower must have an adequate indication that a known proposition is true. Again we have different, controversial explanations for this. For example, we can regard justification as evidence, epistemically permissible or epistemically good or in a large epistemical justification might simply mean ”evidential support” of a certain sort.

Looking at the concept of ontology and epistemology, we can see that they are some kinds of “rules of the game”, and we have different games with different rules. These rules are interconnected within each game. What we believe is reality or being, gives us the limits to what we can believe, we are able to know about that reality and how we are suppose to argue for our knowledge about that reality. What we believe exists, and how it exists leads to the rules of justification, i.e. how to find adequate justification. These kinds of decisions are already methodological choices, leading to a specific method and further defining what kind of data we can lean on and how we are suppose to analyse it.

To demonstrate this chain and the relationship between these choices, we can apply a hierarchical approach. Ontology is the largest and deepest level. Simply, we cannot study something we do not believe exists. The essential questions of how we believe that what we believe exists can be: do we believe that what exists is stable or do we believe that it changes, or is it unique or universal and what is the relationship between human existence and the world?

Epistemology is the second level deduced from ontology and, further, we have different ways of attaining knowledge that refers to methodology. These bases lead also us to theories about the phenomenon, thus theories and methodology are interconnected. Further, each methodological choice consists of several specific methods. Within these methods we might have several alternatives for data-gathering. This structure is delineated in Figure 1.


Figure 1 Hierarchical approach to a paradigm

This kind of a construction is not actually new. A similar description of ontology, epistemology and methodology can be found for example in Hill and Wright’s (2001) article, “A qualitative research agenda for small to medium-sized enterprises”. The difference between their description and this construct is that here it is combined with a paradigm discussion, problematised and supplemented with more specified methodological choices.

A hierarchical approach positions the paradigm discussion and gives us a tool for analysing methodological choices. It might also advance the paradigm discussion itself, since it positions and specifies the place and the role of the paradigm in a scientific inquiry. On the other hand, it is a quite simplistic view of a utmost complex phenomenon, and thus easily exposed to criticism, that might further advance the paradigm debate.

In order to demonstrate the use and the possibilities of this frame, it will next be applied to entrepreneurship studies.

A Paradigm and entrepreneurship research

A need for entrepreneurship-specific methodology

Entrepreneurship as a field of science belongs to the social sciences. It is claimed that it is not a mature science, but rather in the pre-theory stage (e.g. Byrgrave 1989). Therefore it offers a good example for demonstrating on the one hand the nature of a paradigm, on the other hand, the need to combine the methodological discussion to its philosophical basis.

The discussion of the need to advance methodology in entrepreneurship research has focused either on philosophical basis or on more practical recommendations. (e.g. Bygrave 1989, Davidsson 2001, Sexton & Smilor 1986). Among contemporary contributors representing a philosophical perspective we can mention William D. Bygrave (1989) with his two articles “The entrepreneurship paradigm I and II” in the Journal of Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. The basic argument behind his thought is that advancing methodology relates to its ability to describe and understand human behaviour.

The contemporary paradigm debate also combines methodological considerations with the conceptual needs, claiming that both discipline-specified theories and methodology are needed. (e.g. Bygrave 1989, Davidsson 2001, Sexton & Smilor 1986). Often it is recommended that methodological solutions be sought from other fields of science, as suggested by Macmillan and Katz (1992) from epidemiology, criminology, history, archeology and paleontology, and by Steward (1991), from anthropology.

The empirical studies depicting the current outlook of methodological choices, as an interplay between methods and theories, can be found in the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s. Among the early studies we can mention the studies of Wortman (1986), in the interface between entrepreneurship and small businesses, of Churchhill and Lewis (1986), borrowing “lenses” from the younger though somewhat more mature fields of strategy and marketing, and of Brush (1992) in women entrepreneurship. Their data have consisted of journal articles and conference papers.

The latest study has been conducted only recently by Kyrö and Kansikas (2002). It employed the structural, hierarchical approach and depicted the latest outlook of the paradigm discussion taking place in refereed journals.

These studies will be shortly presented in the chronological order. First the earlier discussion distinguishing philosophical basis from the actual methodological choices and then a holistic, structural approach combining these two. The first one also explicates the conceptual confusion around such concepts as a paradigm and a method. The latter one further verifies the need for a more holistic approach and specifies the current state of methodologies in entrepreneurship research.

A paradigm in entrepreneurship research

Bygrave (1989) argues that “entrepreneurship as an emerging paradigm, in the pre-theory stage” needs more inductive methods, based on empirical observations, than on deductive reasoning with statistical analyses. He leads us to this conclusion by comparing the needs of entrepreneurship to physics. He argues that, since entrepreneurship involves “a disjointed, discontinuous, non-linear and usually unique event that cannot be studied successfully with methods developed for examining smooth, continuous, linear and (often repeatable) processes”, there is a need for its own methodology. Per Davidsson (2001) argues for the need for both inductive and deductive studies. Davidsson’s arguments evolve from different research areas of new economic activities, without explicit epistemological considerations. Both of these authors use the concept of a paradigm, without explicitly defining what they mean by it.

Stevenson and Harmeling (1990) had thoughts similar to Bygrave when they argued that the theory of change and the theory of equilibrium are both needed and internally consistent. They also claimed that most of the present theory used to explain corporate entrepreneurship is based upon an implicit assumption that we are examining a set of equilibrium-based phenomenon. Its goal is in describing the world as it is. Assuming that critical phenomena repeat themselves, the relevant phenomena are those that most closely represent the central tendencies of the universe. These phenomena can best be captured through examination of large numbers with the goal of discovering their distribution. They suggest, however, that knowledge must be understood as behavioural processes rather than as outputs. According to them, individual differences in this respect make a difference.

However, this discussion is as old as entrepreneurship discussion itself. As one of the early contributors, we can regard Ludwig von Mises and his writings on subjectivity (1982). Mises called his approach a praxeology, the science of human intentional action (Böhm-Bawerk 1890-1891, Buchanan 1982, Rizzo 1982).

These recommendations are examples that lead to a philosophical discussion. It seems to be an interplay between two choices – deductive and inductive reasoning. However, both Davidsson and Byrgrave, also raise the question of the difficulty of expecting a new paradigm to emerge without accidental discoveries or inventions. This thought is also very fundamental to the origin of economic thought. The roots for it can be identified as early as in the 19th century through the large methodological debate between the German Historical School and the Classical School (e.g., Böhm-Bawerk 1890). The abstract-deductive method was offered at that time as a solution.

Choi’s dissertation (1993) “Paradigms and conventions – Uncertainty, Decision-making and Entrepreneurship” can be mentioned as an example of a more extended conceptual approach to a paradigm. He uses the concept of a paradigm, instead of “ideas” or “understandings”, in order to describe what we use to reflect on our realities. According to him, it relates to all human action. People need paradigms to manage their lives. A paradigm always precedes action. This view might relate to the pragmatist tradition in philosophy that claims that paradigm as it is used in Choi’s study is not preceding action, but is formed and is chanced through action. For Pierce a preceding phenomenon was belief and for James, it was subjective interest. In general, pragmatism is a tradition born out of the criticism towards dualism; truth is born through action and justified through the consequences. How this happens and what precedes it differs according to the contributor. (Dewey 1951, James, 1913, Rorty 1986,Thayer 1968)

A paradigm used in this larger context is a more recent interpretation of its meaning. According to Nurmi (2002) the concept of a paradigm has shown to be so useful that it had been applied to almost any social practices.

This paradigm discussion deals with many basic philosophical questions, from the actual worldview and human existence, to the nature and or the concept of entrepreneurship and its demands on the reasoning, and further to the practical recommendations for advancing methodologies in this field. Thus, the concept of a paradigm, even though not explicitly defined, seems to move from the worldview to the methodological choices, in other words, what we think about the world and human existence and how we are suppose to gain knowledge from it. This concerns the interplay between ontological, epistemological and further methodological discussions.

On the other hand, the introduced ideas of the reality seems to vary from dualism to a non-dualistic position in philosophy. This indicates that there is no consensus over the very basic assumptions of the nature of entrepreneurship. Also, it is evident that this discussion is not new, but rather has followed throughout the history of entrepreneurship, indicating that perhaps it is at the core of the whole phenomenon.

The problem of this paradigm discussion however, is that even though it combines paradigm discussion with methodological considerations, it does not define the basic concept of a paradigm. Thus, it seems to leave the reader with so many loose ends that unravelling them leads to confusion. Therefore, it might be beneficial to employ the holistic approach and explicitly open up the concept of paradigm in order to understand what kind of methods should be used in each case.

Empirical studies of methodological development

The empirical findings approach the methodological debate from an other perspective. They depict the outlook of concrete methodological choices in journal articles and conference papers. The focus is on the interplay between chosen theoretical perspectives and methods without any effort to combine them with deeper levels of knowledge creation.

Churchhill and Lewis (1986) studied the interaction between methodology and the area of inquiry, as well as whether the contribution aimed to improve practice, theory or methodology. They had two sets of data: 298 abstracts from ten journals and 150 conference papers. They divided methodologies into seven categories: observational or contemplative theory building, survey, survey using public data, field study, computer simulation/modelling and vignette or “reportage”. Among these they found that journal articles focused more on the theory building and conference papers on surveys. When they analysed the objective of the research; whether it was theory, practice or methodology, they found that the major part of the journal articles concerned practice and the conference papers a theory. Only six conference papers aimed to improve methodology, for the most part building data bases.

These findings indicate that, at that time, studies showed no interest in methodology, especially those papers presented in blind referee journal articles. On the other hand, the concept of methodology seems to be quite problematic. Instead of an explicit definition for it, they give us different categories, rather focusing on data-gathering methods than on the actual methodology or research method.

Wortman’s study, in 1986, consisted of 52 journal articles and conference papers relating to entrepreneurship, and 70 to small businesses. From a methodological perspective, this study had several limitations. It excluded case studies arguing that “the small business field has been overwhelmed by exploratory studies and the field has passed the time for mass use of the case study”. Its geographical area was restricted to the United States and Canada. Finally, it only included data-oriented studies. The studies were classified by type of organisation, sample size, research methods and/or instruments employed, statistical methods used, issues studied and content of the study. The results indicated that when statistical methods were used, they generally were at a relatively unsophisticated level, such as means, standard deviations, ranking, t-tests and linear correlation. On the other hand, some developments took place between 1980 and 1984, in the studies on small businesses, towards more sophisticated statistical analysing methods. As a recommendation, the author suggested that more sophisticated statistical analyses would be needed.

The results indicate that advancing methodology is regarded as a matter of using more sophisticated existing statistical analysing methods. From a methodological conceptualisation perspective, the classification of methods in this study is quite confusing. The author seems to divide them into two categories, statistical analyses and case studies. This might imply two directions – either there were only those two choices or the author did not identify different methods in the qualitative field. On the other hand, the study aims to differentiate between a research method, a data-gathering method and an analysing method, which might be regarded as more advanced approach than Churchhill and Lewis’s study.

Brush’s study was restricted to women business owners. She used 57 conference papers and articles as her data, published during 1977-1991. From a methodological perspective, she studied “research design” referring to a data-gathering method, and a research analysing technique. The findings show that 63% used mail surveys and 21% personal interviews. 44% used descriptive statistics and 30% also used khi square tests, correlation or t-tests. Only 18% used more sophisticated statistical analyses. Qualitative analyses were used in only four studies.

The findings seems to support Wortman’s results, as to the use of sophisticated statistical methods. On the other hand, results indicate that qualitative methods have not increased the interest among women entrepreneurship researchers or they have not been reviewed as a valid choice to be examined. In this study, as in the previous examples, there seems to be little or no interest to advance methodological development. From a conceptualising perspective, the research design and the data-gathering method seem to be synonyms.

These empirical studies indicate that there has been very little interest, either towards methodological development per se or innovative learning, from other fields of science. Also, methodologies used or studied were mainly concentrated on quantitative methods, that indicates that the emphases is on deductive reasoning. The studies seem also to be conceptually confusing as the concepts of the research method, data-gathering method and analysing method.

Combining these two approaches; paradigm discussion with more general recommendations and empirical findings to depict the actual methodological choices, we can conclude that both of them indicate the need to advance methodologies in entrepreneurship research and to support each other. On the other hand, both of them also indicate that there is a need to clarify and sharpen conceptualisation regarding the bases of such concepts as a paradigm and methodology, and methods.

In addition, both of these, philosophical and empirical studies indicate that there rarely seems to be explicit efforts to combine the methodological discussion with the philosophical bases. Thus we have either philosophical discussion or methodological discussion, but not efforts to see the relationship between methodological choices and philosophical bases. This is delineated in Figure 2.

There seems to be a tendency to deduce the argumentation from dualism and disregard as a starting point non-dualistic traditions in philosophy. By looking at the whole chain of choices from philosophical bases to actual methods, there might be an easier access also to the non-dualistic assumption of reality and thus construct consistent choices between the ontological and epistemological problems and methodological choices. In order to go forward with this suggestion, the most recent study of the current state in entrepreneurship research will be presented.

The current state of methodology in entrepreneurship research

The study of Kyrö and Kulmala (2002) adopted the structural frame and examined how most recent studies argue for and explicate the ontological and epistemological commitments. Further, they looked at the kinds of methods that are used and how they are described, considering all three parts of the methodological choices, that is the research, the data-gathering and the analysing method.

The data consisted of 337 referee articles published in leading entrepreneurship journals in 1999-2000. ( data available: Kyrö & al. 2002).Thus this data represented the legitimated scientific consensus of methodological excellency in this field.

The results indicated that none of these articles seemed to explicate the ontological and epistemological levels relating to their methodological choices. Sixty four per cent of the studies used some kind of statistical method, eleven per cent qualitative methods, and eleven per cent qualitative approach, and six per cent used econometrics etc., methods typical for macro-level studies. The methodological choice for eight per cent of the studies was missing. The main part of the statistical methods were high level of sophistication, since only sixteen articles used descriptive statistics. In qualitative methods discursive methods were represented most, followed by case studies. Ethnography and historical approaches were used in one article and narrative in two articles.

Table 2 Research methods in entrepreneurship studies

In general, actually little has happened in the concrete methodological development that might be seen as an advancement in the paradigm discussion. The suggestion that entrepreneurship should develop a methodology of its own seems to be far in the future. Advancement has taken place in statistical methods, as well as in the field of discourse methods. The interesting question is whether this profile refers to some kind on consensus of the nature of this phenomenon, and what it tells us about the nature of epistemological and ontological levels. The findings also seemed to be contradictory to those claims explicating the very nature of entrepreneurship i.e. its philosophical bases.

This example of entrepreneurship research demonstrates, on the one hand, how important it is to argue for methodological choices in order to make consistent choices, on the other hand, how easy it is to loose the basic nature of the phenomenon through methodological choices. Therefore explicating the chain of arguments by using a holistic approach might increase the quality of the study.

Concluding remarks

If we assume that knowledge is not one but many and it changes, it is reasonable to assume that we have different ways of studying it, or as Kuhn suggests, an immature paradigm is engaged in competing schools of science or neighbouring sciences. As the entrepreneurship paradigm discussion indicates, that is the case in this field, and instead of one definition, it has several different definitions which might lead to different epistemological and ontological assumptions. Thus, explicating this chain of arguments adds the value of a study and might even lead to its contribution. As a more general recommendation pondering over the chain of arguments presented as a structural approach to a paradigm also might add the value in the other fields of social sciences.

A holistic approach gives us the keys for explicating our own thoughts and intentions in research, thus it helps us in both forming the foundation for our study and conducting it.

Kyrö, Paula 2002. The paragidm and methodological choices in scientific research. Prosessiartikkelit


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