Small business and entrepreneurial research: meta-theories, paradigms and prejudices

Paul Grant, Lew Perren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Small business and entrepreneurship has emerged as an important area of research over the past 40 years. Much of this development has been achieved by drawing on and adapting the theoretical frameworks of disciplines from outside. However, such diversity of disciplinary foundation does not necessarily result in a diversity of underlying meta-theoretical assumptions within an area. Other areas of the social sciences have benefited from the consideration of the meta-theoretical foundations of their research and as a consequence they have been able to extend their research into new agendas. There has been some meta-theoretic discussion of small business and entrepreneurial research, yet the review conducted for this project found no recent articles that provided a systematic analysis of contemporary research. This article will address this gap by employing Burrell and Morgan's (I1979) paradigmatic taxonomy to conduct a systematic meta-theoretical analysis of articles published in the year 2000 by leading authors in key small business and entrepreneurial journals. The analysis shows a dominance of the functionalist paradigm that pervades the elite discourse of research in leading journals and acts as a potential barrier to other perspectives. Whether a Hegelian or Kuhnian perspective on knowledge production is taken, it is clear that the health and future development of research in this area requires a broadening of perspectives to enable debate, friction, creativity and ultimately new theories and understandings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-211
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Small Business Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Copyright Sage Publications


  • assumptions • meta-theory • paradigm • philosophy • review


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