What’s in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice for practising entrepreneurs? The Top 5 Papers


In this second of a series of articles I will overview what practical value an entrepreneur might gain from the Top-5 most cited papers published in the leading journals. In my previous article I looked at the Journal of Business Venturing, in this one we look at Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice (ETP).

The journal was first published by Baylor University in 1976, although today it is published by Wiley. It has an impact factor of 2.542 and is one of the leading academic journals in the entrepreneurship field. Based on the number of citations since these papers were published, the Top-5 most highly cited papers from ETP are discussed below along with their relevance to practising entrepreneurs. The data is drawn from Anne Wil Harzing’s “Publish or Perish” analysis.

Research on women business owners

The most citied paper is Candida Brush’s (1992) “Research on women business owners: past trends, a new perspective and future directions”. When this article was being written this paper had been cited 892 times or an average of 42.48 times a year.

This paper was written as a summary of the extant literature on women business owners up to the early 1990s. As such it is largely a literature review of 57 articles and provides a useful overview of the state of academic research to that point in time. It offers a summary of the general findings that had emerged from this research.

Of interest is that the paper concludes that women are similar to men in many ways. This included the problems they face and their basic demographic and business characteristics. However, they were found to differ in terms of education, work experience, skills, business goals and performance.

Women business owners were viewed as different to men due mainly to their viewing their firms differently. Women were felt to view their business as a cooperative network of relationships rather than an economic entity.  An “integrated perspective” in which the woman seeks to integrate the business venture into her life was seen as one of the main findings.

The need for women to balance work and family issues was seen as justifying different performance metrics when considering female owned businesses. Women’s ability to deal with work and family demands was also seen as having some lessons for male owners.

The psychology of new venture creation

The second most cited paper from ETP is “Person, process, choice: the psychology of new venture creation” by Kelly Shaver and Linda Scott (1991). This paper has been cited 812 times or 36.91 times per year since its publication.

A conceptual paper, this study examined psychological and behavioural factors likely to influence the process of new venture creation. This commences with a discussion of the person, then moves to their choices, and considers risk-taking propensity, locus of control, achievement drive, and cognitive heuristics and the perception of choice.

The paper argues that to understand the new venture creation process attention must be given to the person and their ability to want to launch the venture. A psychological perspective on new venture creation is called for.

Entrepreneurial potential and potential entrepreneurs

The third most cited paper in ETP is that of Norris Krueger and Deborah Brazeal (1994) entitled “Entrepreneurial potential and potential entrepreneurs”. This paper has been cited 770 times or 40.53 times a year since its publication.

Another conceptual paper, this study draws upon the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen and Fishbein 1980) and Shapero’s (1974) model of the entrepreneurial event (SEE) to propose a model of entrepreneurial potential. This suggests that the intention to found a new venture is influenced by the perceived desirability and feasibility of the behaviour and the propensity to act.

The practical implications of this study are outlined as its recognition that to encourage new venture formation, it is necessary to foster the perception that entrepreneurial activity is both desirable and feasible. Support should also be given to potential and existing entrepreneurs.

Within corporations the encouragement of entrepreneurship requires a supportive culture that embraces such activities. It should have suitable reward systems and structures. In essence, senior managers should commit to the encouragement of proactivity, calculated risk taking and innovation.

Toward a reconciliation of the definitional issues in the field of corporate entrepreneurship

The fourth most highly cited paper is by Pramodita Sharma and James Chrisman (1999) entitled “Toward a reconciliation of the definitional issues in the field of corporate entrepreneurship”. Since its publication it has been cited 643 times or 45.93 times a year.

This paper is a further conceptual work and reviews the literature to develop a definition framework and classification system for corporate entrepreneurship. Its primary objective is to provide some foundations for understanding the nature of corporate entrepreneurial activities.

The classification framework identifies corporate entrepreneurship as being driven primarily by innovation and being either innovative or imitative in nature. Ventures can be either related or unrelated to the parent firm and either autonomous or embedded with formal or informal levels of sponsorship.

Defining the family business by behaviour

The fifth paper is by Jess Chua, James Chrisman and Pramodita Sharma (1999) titled “Defining the family business by behaviour”. This paper has been cited 660 times or around 47.14 times per year since its publication.

This paper aims to achieve a similar definitional framework for family business as the preceding paper sought to do in relation to corporate entrepreneurship. However, this study also drew on a sample of 453 family owned and managed firms from the United States.

A partial least squares (PLS) analysis was employed to examine these firm’s concerns over succession and introduction of professional management. Perhaps the most significant finding from this analysis was that the involvement in the business of the family is not an indication that either the family or the business will conform to the definition of a family business.

In order to distinguish a family business from others it was suggested that the best point of focus should be the visions, intentions and behaviour of the owners. It seems to be insufficient to simply define the business as being a family business on the basis of family involvement.

Five critical tests of relevance

 According to Thomas and Tymon (1982) there are five critical tests of relevance in managerial research studies. These are:

  1. Descriptive relevance – do the research findings capture the phenomena encountered by the business practitioner within their organisational setting? 
  2. Goal relevance – does the research align with the objectives and goals the end-user practitioners are seeking to achieve? 
  3. Operational validity – can the end user practising manager actually implement the findings by manipulating the same independent variables to achieve the same outcome on the dependent variable? 
  4. Non-obviousness – are the findings able to offer information that is more informative than what the common sense theory of the practitioner already suggests?
  5. Timeliness – are the findings published in a manner that allows the practitioner to use it to deal with real world problems when they need it?

This provides a useful framework in which to assess the practical value of much of the research that has been published around the world in the academic journals. When we look at these five most highly cited papers in one of the entrepreneurship field’s leading journals what conclusions can we draw as to their managerial relevance?

How do these five papers demonstrate managerial relevance?

It can be seen from these summaries that the five papers are largely conceptual in nature. As such they were designed to make a contribution towards the development of theory and not to help practising entrepreneurs and managers with the successful operation of their businesses.

Brush’s paper may offer some guidance to those seeking to help female owner-managers, in particular the challenges they face seeking to balance family and business issues. Also of importance is the tendency that many female entrepreneurs have to view their venture more in social than economic terms.

Shaver and Scott’s paper offers little for those who have already launched their business, but it may be useful to nascent entrepreneurs and those that seek to support them. The recognition of the importance of psychological preparedness and self-analysis designed to reinforce motivation and commitment are potentially valuable lessons.

This is broadly consistent with the paper by Kruegel and Brazeal, which highlights the importance of fostering entrepreneurship by making it a desirable activity to pursue. However, this seems to be a fairly obvious finding. Sharma and Chrisman’s paper has very little practical application, although it may be of some use to managers seeking to redesign corporate structures that can encourage more entrepreneurship and innovation.

Finally, the paper by Chua, Chrisman and Sharma is also not specifically designed to provide practical assistance to managers. However, the finding that family business is best defined by the visions and intentions of the firm’s owners may have significance for those seeking to support such firms. There are many family business associations and small business assistance agencies that seek to provide forums and support for family businesses. The definition of these firms is often problematic and based on generational longevity. This paper suggests that a better mechanism for classifying if the business is a family business is to simply ask the owners. 


Ajzen, I., and, Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Behaviour. Englewood Cliffs, NJ., Prentice-Hall.

Brush, C.G. (1992) “Research on women business owners: past trends, a new perspective and future directions”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 16(4):5-30.

Chua, J.H., Chrisman, J.J., and Sharma, P. (1999) “Defining the Family Business by Behavior”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 23(4): 19-39. 

Krueger, N.F., and Brazeal, D.V. (1994) “Entrepreneurial potential and potential entrepreneurs”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 18(3): 91-104.

Shapero, A. (1975). “The displaced, uncomfortable entrepreneur”, Psychology Today, 9(Nov): 83-22.

Sharma, P., and Chrisman, J. (1999) “Toward a reconciliation of the definitional issues in the field of corporate entrepreneurship”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 23(3): 11-27.

Shaver, K.G., and Scott, L.R. (1991) “Person, process, choice: the psychology of new venture creation”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 16(2): 23-45.