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New research: four recommendations for enhancing explorative entrepreneurship research

Exploratory research goes beyond testing existing ideas to illuminate phenomena without regard to offering a specific reason for doing so. For this reason, exploratory research is vital to entrepreneurship research where new phenomenon such as crowdfunding, social ventures, and digital business models emerge that scholars may lack existing tools to explain. Well-done exploratory research offers a great opportunity to make useful contributions to entrepreneurship scholarship.

A new editorial authored by House of Innovation affiliated researcher Karl Wennberg and his U.S. colleague Brian Anderson aims at sparking to life a conversation about the state of entrepreneurship research. It focuses specifically on possibilities to enhance exploratory entrepreneurship research using tools from the neighboring sciences. According to the editorial, graphical displays of data are still rather uncommon, and many papers in the field of exploratory entrepreneurship research lack proper descriptive statistics. This research proposes that future attempts to conduct exploratory entrepreneurship research ought to incorporate newer and ever-improving data visualization tools to enhance research insights.

The editorial proposes that a renewed emphasis on exploratory analysis would improve the work of entrepreneurship scholars. It offers four recommendations for accomplishing this.

(1)   First, entrepreneurship scholars should describe data using both figures and plots. The value added of traditional graphical displays such as box-plots increases when researchers measure variables on different scales.

(2)   Second, researchers should distinguish between pure exploratory papers and exploratory-before-theory-testing papers. As preparation for theory-testing research, exploratory data plotting can help reveal general patterns, identify outliers, and provide insight into the functional form of variables. But exploratory research is different from theory-testing research and to mix the two approaches would be to confuse their respective purposes.

(3)   Third, researches should explore visualizing time dimensionality. Variation over time is useful and valuable to explore and display in research. Summary statistics and correlations may conceal an important time-trend, which visualizations could help reveal.

(4)   Lastly, researchers should make considerations both for reviewers and editors. This recommendation serves to encourage reviewers and editors to be more open in the future to exploratory studies.

“As we look to accelerate entrepreneurship research, we need to be mindful that a central facet of the field has always been the exploration of novel and important phenomena. We suggest it is time to go beyond the standard practice of merely relying on summaries of descriptive statistics and graphical displays of marginal effects from fitted statistical models.”


Karl Wennberg
Affiliated Researcher, House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics

Brian S. Anderson
Bloch School of Management, University of Missouri

House of Innovation Entrepreneurship Research methods Strategy Article Journal Publication Research