About the lives and times of extraordinary entrepreneurs: The methodological contribution of autobiographies to the life course theory of entrepreneurship

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Abstract

There have been recent calls in the entrepreneurship literature to shift research paradigms toward more relevant, contextual, and process-oriented research. We respond by proposing a life course perspective on firms and their creators using alternative sources of information, specifically life history data included in autobiographies written by the founders of well-known firms. Autobiographies as self-narratives describing how the founders and their firms evolved and any dramatic events that interrupted that process provide unique insights not obtainable from other research materials. This paper introduces retrospective analysis of the life course of entrepreneurs and the evolution of their firms, including critical stages and transitions, and reflection on what was achieved and what was not. To guide researchers, we provide an overview of methodologies used to analyze autobiographies, discuss their strengths and limitations, and suggest potential research designs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Small Business Management
Volume59
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Stefanie Habersang for providing us with very helpful comments. Also the help of Catherine Walker and Rhonda Daniels in streamlining our arguments and editing the text is much appreciated.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 International Council for Small Business.

Research programs

  • RSM S&E

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