Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Helle Neergaard and Claire Leitch
Chapter 2: Using constant comparison as a method of analysis in entrepreneurship research
Until the mid-1990s, research in the area of entrepreneurship was often described as a mono-method field, heavily reliant on surveys and questionnaires (Aldrich 1992). This focus on ‘numbers’ and the dominance of a positivist paradigm has been explained by the existence of a more or less dominant set of philosophical assumptions and associated methodological procedures (Silverman 2001; Bryman and Bell 2003). In terms of distinctiveness, positivist or natural scientific inquiry is best understood in terms of a desire to deduce and measure the nature of reality and represent it in quantifiable terms (Zaner 1970; Bryman 1988). Since the turn of the millennium however, entrepreneurship and small business journals have started to reflect a growing openness to new philosophies and methods of inquiry (Gartner and Birley 2002). This increased maturity and tolerance of previously unorthodox approaches has been explained in part as a reflection of the philosophical and methodological sophistication of a growing body of interpretive business research (Anderson 2000; Cope 2005a; Jack 2005). It also reflects a shift in the types of questions being asked by researchers with roots in the more established social sciences relating to the ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ surrounding entrepreneurship and the contexts in which it takes place (Chell and Pittaway 1998; Kodithuwakku and Rosa 2002). Gartner and Birley (2002) have commented that this represents the progression of qualitative research from being a ‘special case’ to being recognized as a useful and coherent method of exploring the rich and complex phenomenon of entrepreneurship.
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