Researching entrepreneurship: an approach to develop subjective understanding

Duminda Rajasinghe, Chinthaka Aluthgama-Baduge, Gary Mulholland

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


PurposeEntrepreneurship is a complex social activity. Hence, knowledge production in the field requires inclusivity and diversity within research approaches and perspectives to appreciate the richness of the phenomenon. However, the dominance of positivist research in the field is visible, and the current qualitative research is also predominantly restricted to popular templates. This seems to have limited the understanding of entrepreneurship. This paper critically discusses the appropriateness of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) as an innovative qualitative research methodology that facilitates a fuller appreciation of the richness and diversity of entrepreneurship.Design/methodology/approachThis conceptual paper critically evaluates IPA's relevance for the stated purpose by reviewing both entrepreneurship and IPA literature. It discusses how IPA's philosophical underpinnings facilitate scholars to appreciate the wholeness of the phenomenon and provides literature informed data analysis guidance, thereby addressing some of the weaknesses of the qualitative research within the field.FindingsCritical evaluation of the literature suggests that IPA is an appropriate research methodology for entrepreneurship. It has the potential to address some interesting and timely questions to elaborate, deepen and qualify existing theory or to study relatively unexplored areas within the field. The laid-out guidance helps scholars to develop informed rationale for their research decisions and to ensure quality and rigour in qualitative research.Originality/valueThis paper promotes the analysis of how people make sense of their experience as a valid way of knowing. IPA has a unique identity as it incorporates phenomenology, hermeneutics and idiography as a way to explore first-hand human experience to uncover qualitative understanding of entrepreneurship. The clear guidance and justifications in the paper promote scholarly confidence and address some preconceptions related to rigour, quality and validity of qualitative studies. Incorporating IPA into entrepreneurship, the paper also contributes to the demand for diversity, inclusivity and pluralism in qualitative research perspectives and approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)866-883
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research
Issue number4
Early online date29 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2021


  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


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