Smith, R. and McElwee, Gerard (2015) Developing qualitative research streams relating to illegal rural enterprise: reflections on researching qualitatively at the margins of entrepreneurship research. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 21 (3). pp. 364-388. ISSN 1355-2554

– The purpose of this reflective paper is to discuss and reflect and in the process celebrate the development of a qualitative research stream which continues to interrogate the unusual topic of illegal rural enterprise. The authors discuss how a common interest in rural entrepreneurship and rural criminology led to a very productive and continuing research collaborations.

– To discuss, reflect and evaluate several qualitative methodologies arising out of a research stream into illegal rural enterprise.

– The findings are tentative and subjective in nature but the authors strongly believe that writing qualitatively over a number of related topics and over several published articles legitimises the use of niche qualitative research methods and methodologies. Ultimately it will help develop robust methodologies. The authors agree that just as there is no single, universally applicable theorisation of entrepreneurial behaviours, actions and antics there is no single qualitative methodology that provides constant explanations.

Research limitations/implications
– This reflective paper being a subjective and emotive rhetorical piece has obvious limitations in that the advice proffered may be strongly disputed by research managers and heads of department trying to build an orthodox research output. Also the understanding of qualitative research may differ from that of other scholars. This is surely cause for celebration! This will help the authors better understand the heterogeneity of entrepreneurship.

Practical implications
– By discussing and celebrating a qualitatively driven research stream rather than discussing individual qualitative publications in isolation this reflection makes a contribution. The professional and institutional pressures to conform to productive mainstream research topics capable of publication in top tier journals poses a danger to the practice of conducting qualitative research which exist at the margins of individual disciplines. It is hoped that this discussion will act as an inspirational beacon to others to pursue research agendas for which they have a passion.

– This reflective piece identifies and discusses an under researched area of entrepreneurship research namely how to craft and develop a unified qualitative research stream at the margins of entrepreneurship research.

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