A lot of research in the humanities, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was developed using the biographical method, which attained the height of its popularity in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, but was gradually replaced from the 1940s onward by a variety of other field research approaches, and later by mail or email surveys. Since the 1980s, however, there has been renewed interest in it, and the method has made something of a comeback. The purpose of this article, written by two researchers who are longstanding supporters of the biographical method, is to provide an introduction for emerging researchers. The text presents an overview of the method, along with guidelines for its application and suggestions for using its findings in a variety of situations including teaching. The authors begin by observing the method’s return to popularity, and go on to identify its considerable potential for research in the humanities, and especially for studying entrepreneurial representations. The second part of the article addresses various potential applications, and the third looks at how to use and assess the findings, and discusses the importance of aiming for transcendent authenticity when using the method. The authors conclude by examining the method’s potential role in helping to define the field of entrepreneurship more precisely as a discipline.
- biographical method
- life stories
- entrepreneurial representations
- case studies