[We’re pleased to welcome authors Sharon Simmons of the University of Missouri Kansas City, Alice Wieland of the University of Nevada, and Dan Hsu of Appalachian State University, who recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled “Designing Entrepreneurship Experiments: A Review, Typology, and Research Agenda.” From Simmons, Wieland, and Hsu:]
- What inspired you to be interested in this topic?
Dr. Simmons: Our inspiration for the project came from our individual interests in the experimental research methodology and our growing awareness of the difficulties that emerging entrepreneurship scholars in the field were having getting their experiment papers accepted at elite entrepreneurship journals. Each of the coauthors have different backgrounds that shaped our learning journeys leading up to the conceptualization of the article. We believe that our diverse backgrounds and different challenges of learning about the appropriate sample and research designs allowed us to write the article in a way that will be understood by a broad audience with different levels of experience and understanding of experimental methods.
Dr. Wieland: My motivation for this paper came from the frustration of sending in experimental papers on entrepreneurship and getting reviews from entrepreneurship researchers who didn’t understand the method – they couldn’t fairly evaluate the manuscripts – both from a design perspective and the related statistical analysis. Much of entrepreneurship research is related to psychological phenomena, therefore, it is essential that using the best methods in psychological research should also be applied, and understood by entrepreneurship researchers.
Dr. Hsu: I shared the similar concerns with Dr. Wieland. Many entrepreneurship scholars were not familiar with the experimental method and rejected a paper using experiments because it lacked external validity – the experimental scenarios/conditions were not real. As we advocated in the paper, the external validity is never the goal of experiments. Instead, the purpose of experiments is to test causality, a critical component of many important relationships in entrepreneurship, including mediation effects. In fact, mediation effects can not be rigorously tested without using the experimental method.
- Were there findings that were surprising to you?
Dr. Simmons: To prepare the article we conducted a survey of current entrepreneurship experiments. What we found surprising is that the researchers were able to tap into different stakeholders of the entrepreneurship process to participate in the experiments. There is a general perception in the field that experienced individuals such as venture capitalists, mentors, angel investors, CEOs are difficult to pull away from their everyday functions to engage in an experiment. We were happy to see a good representation of these stakeholders participating in entrepreneurship experiments.
Dr. Wieland: Since this is a methodological review, there were not specific “findings” related to the work. However, what was interesting to me were the different techniques used for experimental designs noted in the review of published studies which combined a field sample with random assignment to address the weaknesses of both approaches.
- How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?
Dr. Simmons: We hope that the care that we put into providing practical examples and the typology will ease the uncertainty of scholars that are new to the experimental method. The entrepreneurship field is at a level of maturity that calls for studies with the scientific rigor to both test and advance theories of the relationships that scholars to date have done a fine job of bringing to the forefront. While we title the article, Designing Experiments for Entrepreneurship Research, we see this study impacting the broader management literature as well.
Dr. Wieland: We hope to provide a guide that will be useful for entrepreneurship researchers who are new to using experimental methods.