Topic outline

  • Welcome to Entrepreneurship and Society course!

    This course provides a self-paced learning platform introducing students to the current topics in the field of entrepreneurship research. By doing so, the course also emphasises the use of theories from different disciplines that are applied to entrepreneurship phenomena, such as psychology, sociology, organizational theory, linguistics, economics, history and geography.

    The course provides self-organized learning exercises and one-to-one feedback sessions to help students learn “how to craft an introduction, literature review and theoretical framework” for an academic paper. 

    • Students gain an overview of current themes in the field of entrepreneurship research. 
    • They develop competencies in conducting a literature review and writing an academic paper.
    • Students enrich their skills in searching for suitable literatures and comprehending scientific articles. 
    • They learn to problematize under-explored phenomena in the entrepreneurship literature and to specify relevant research aims, questions and theoretical approaches for examining a specific topic.
    • As final outcome, students are able to develop a concise academic paper, including an introduction, literature review and theoretical framework, which can be directly applied in their Master’s thesis work or in any other research project.

    It is important to note that the course is oriented at the study of entrepreneurship rather than training the student to start and manage a small firm. Thus, the course will help students learn the skills for critical thinking, argumentation and research, and enhance their capability to engage in debates on entrepreneurship as start-up entrepreneur, business or policy consultant, or manager and expert of a larger corporation.

    Read about the course content and requirements in the Syllabus, and utilise the steps offered on this page to guide you through the journey!

  • These materials have been created to help you to 

    • get a quick introduction to the course content,
    • better work on your assignment
    • learn the skills of academic reading and writing
    • see how the course supports the MSc thesis process. 

    More useful readings and videos are provided on the left sidebar of the Course homepage!

  • For the individual work assignment your task is to write an academic paper of 4500-6000 words excluding the reference list. The individual work assignment weighs 100% in your final mark.

    28 possible topics are provided in the Syllabus from which you have to choose one. However, you can (and it is even recommended!) that you consider merging insights from multiple topics if you think it supports the development of an interesting research question and framework for your paper. You can also propose your own topic if you feel that your preferred work is not related to any of the suggested themes. If so, please send an explanation tom

    You are required to use at least five academic sources in your paper. You can use government white papers, blogs and magazine articles, but academic sources are preferred, such as articles from the top entrepreneurship journals: Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Small Business Economics, Entrepreneurship Regional & Development, Small Business Management, International Journal of Small Business, and Journal of Business Venturing Insights.

    Exemplary top management journals that publish articles on entrepreneurship are: e.g. Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management Studies. Organization Science, and Organization Studies.

    To get started, each of the 28 topic description offered in the Syllabus comprises a list of 5-8 essential academic readings.

    You have to submit your final paper electronically (Word or PDF file) by 7.5.2021 (23:55) at MyCourse (Submission box is on the front page of this course).

    See Syllabus for more instructions. 

    Note! There are no possibilities to change or improve your grade after you submit the assignment. You can however book a feedback session after the grades have been published in WebOodi.

  • Before choosing your own topic, you may wish to gain an overview of the entrepreneurship research in general. To do that, take a look at the articles below that have been influential in developing entrepreneurship as a research field. 

    Taking a look at (few of) them may help you develop a more general (e.g. psychological, behavioural, contextual or process) understanding of entrepreneurship, complementing your specified knowledge gained from your focused academic paper. Also, feel free to build your paper around the following references. 

    Baron, Robert A. (2008) The Role of Affect in the Entrepreneurial Process. Academy of Management Review 33: 328–340. 

    Baumol, William J. (1996) Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive, and Destructive. Journal of Business Venturing 11: 3–22. 

    Gartner, WB (1988). Who is an entrepreneur? Is the wrong question. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 13: 47–68. 

    Davidsson, P. (2016). Entrepreneurial opportunities and the entrepreneurship nexus: a re-conceptualization. Journal of Business Venturing 30: 674–695. 

    Lounsbury, M., Glynn, M.A., 2001. Cultural entrepreneurship: stories, legitimacy, and the acquisition of resources. Strategic Management Journal 22: 545–564. 

    McMullen, J., & Shepherd, D. (2006). Entrepreneurial action and the role of uncertainty in the theory of the entrepreneur. Academy of Management Review 31: 132–152. 

    McMullen, J .S., Dimov , D . (2013). Time and the Entrepreneurial Journey: The Problems and Promise of Studying Entrepreneurship as a Process. Journal of Management Studies 50: 1481–1512. 

    Sarasvathy, Saras, D. (2001). Causation and effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency. Academy of Management Review 26: 243–263. 

    Shane, S., Venkataraman, S. (2000). The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. Academy of Management Review 25: 217–226. 

    Shepherd, D. (2015). Party on! A call for entrepreneurship research that is more interactive, activity based, cognitively hot, compassionate, and prosocial. Journal of Business Venturing 30: 489–507. 

    Welter, F. (2011). Conceptual challenges and ways forward. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 35: 165–184. Welter, F., Baker, T., Audretsch, D. B. & Gartner, W. B. (2017). Everyday entrepreneurship: A call for entrepreneurship research to embrace entrepreneurial diversity. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 41: 311–321. 

  • Before starting the exercises and working on the literature review (which usually comes before writing the introduction), it is recommended to invest a fair bit of time to find a topic area that is of great interest to you, or that is even your passion. 

    For this, please give yourself time to carefully read all theme descriptions provided in the Syllabus to see which theme(s) you could imagine to be the potential topic of your Master’s thesis (or a similar research project). 28 possible topics are provided in the Syllabus from which you have to choose one. However, you can (and it is even recommended!) that you consider merging insights from multiple topics if you think it supports the development of an interesting research question and framework for your paper. You can also propose your own topic if you feel that your preferred work is not related to any of the suggested themes. If so, please send an explanation to

    For finding a topic area that is close to your passion and that is of great relevance given the existing knowledge, you may find the following video and article very useful: 


    Colquitt JA, George G. (2011). Publishing in AMJ: Topic Choice, Academy of Management Journal 54: 432-435. 


  • Search academic articles at Google Scholar:

    or Aalto library database:

    For a concise overview of tips & tricks for how to read academic articles we recommend the approach by Peter Klein from Organizations and Markets (summarised below).

    How to Read an Academic Article

    1. Caveat: no single style works for everyone!
    2. Klein’s basic steps for skimming, scanning, processing…
      1. Read the abstract (if provided)
      2. Read the introduction.
      3. Read the conclusion.
      4. Skim the middle, looking at section titles, tables, figures, etc.—try to get a feel for the style and flow of the article.
        1. Is it methodological, conceptual, theoretical (verbal or mathematical), empirical, or something else?
        2. Is it primarily a survey, a novel theoretical contribution, an empirical application of an existing theory or technique, a critique, or something else?
      5. Go back and read the whole thing quickly, skipping equations, most figures and tables.
      6. Go back and read the whole thing carefully, focusing on the sections or areas that seem most important.
    3. Once you’ve grasped the basic argument the author is trying to make, critique it!
      1. Ask if the argument makes sense. Is it internally consistent? Well supported by argument or evidence? (This skill takes some experience to develop!)
      2. Compare the article to others you’ve read on the same or a closely related subject. (If this is the first paper you’ve read in a particular subject area, find some more and skim them. Introductions and conclusions are key.) Compare and contrast. Are the arguments consistent, contradictory, orthogonal?
      3. Use Google Scholar, the Social Sciences Citation Index, publisher web pages, and other resources to find articles that cite the article you’re reading. See what they say about it. See if it’s mentioned on blogs, groups, etc.
      4. Check out a reference work, e.g. a survey article from the Journal of Economic Literature, a Handbook or Encyclopedia article, or a similar source, to see how this article fits in the broader context of its subject area.

  • (1) Take a look at the following videos to get into the ‘introduction writing mode/mood’: 






    (2) Take a look at the introduction of the following articles: 

    Fauchart, E. & M. Gruber 2011. Darwinians, Communitarians and Missionaries: The Role of Founder Identity in EntrepreneurshipAcademy of Management Journal 54: 935–957. 

    Kibler, E., Mandl, C., Kautonen, T. and Berger, E. 2017. Attributes of legitimate venture failure impressionsJournal of Business Venturing, 32: 145–161. 

    Shepherd, D.A. & Williams, T.A. 2014. Local Venturing as Compassion Organizing in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster: The Role of Localness and Community in Reducing SufferingJournal of Management Studies, 51: 952–994. (Can be accessed by logging in to Aalto Learning Centre)

    (3) Choose at least one paper and respond to the following questions: 

    • How/where do the authors set a hook for their research paper? 
    • How/where do they (a) summarize and critique the state of the literature and (b) identify a research problem and/or knowledge gap?
    • How/where do the authors explain the “so-what?”, in terms of providing the reasons for why the research problem matters respectively why it reflects an important knowledge gap to be addressed? 
    • How/where does the introduction explain how the paper is going to address the research problem and gap theoretically and empirically? Are these aspects sufficiently described? (Explain) 
    • How is the introduction in general organized (chronologically, in form of hook, summary/critique of literature, research problem/knowledge gap, rationale of “so-what”, explanation of how to address the gap, and concluding with contributions)? 
    • Can you think of another way to organize the same introduction? 

    (4) Build on your gained insights 

    After (a) from watching the videos, (b) reading the articles and (c) answering the questions...

    ...start developing the structure and content for your introduction (e.g. hook, state of the literature, critique on literature, research problem/gap, “so-what”? – what is missing and how you address the missing pieces). 

    Supportive Reading Material 

    Grant, A. M., & Pollock, T. G. 2011. Publishing in AMJ-Part 3: Setting the hook. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 873-879 

  • (1) Take a look at the following videos to get into the ‘literature review mode/mood’: 




    (2) Take a look at the following articles: 

    (Can be accessed by logging into Aalto Learning Centre)

    Überbacher, F. (2014). Legitimation of new ventures: A review and research programmeJ Manage Stud 51: 667–698. 

    Bacq, S., &Janssen, F. 2011. The multiple faces of social entrepreneurship: A review of definitional issues based on geographical and thematic criteriaEntrepreneurship & Regional Development 23: 373-403. 

    Williams, T.A. Gruber, D.A. Sutcliffe, K. M. Shepherd, D.A., & Zhao, E.Y. 2017. Organizational Response to Adversity: Fusing Crisis Management and Resilience Research StreamsAcademy of Management Annals, 11: 733-769. 

    Wood, M.S., & McKelvie, A. 2015. Opportunity Evaluation as Future Focused Cognition: Identifying Conceptual Themes and Empirical TrendsInternational Journal of Management Reviews 17: 256-277. 

    (3) Choose at least one paper and respond to the following questions: 

    • What is the motivation that the authors present to conduct the literature review on the topic? 
    • Which method do they apply? Is it sufficiently described? 
    • How is the literature organized (chronologically, by themes, by questions, by subtopics...)? 
    • Can you suggest another way to organize the same literature? 

    (4) Make notes (a) from watching the videos, (b) reading the articles and (c) answering the questions

    How could you make use of the gained insights for developing your own review of the literature?

    (5) Take a look at the following video and, at the same time, start doing and organizing your literature review for your paper: 


    Supportive Reading Material 

    Denyer, D., & Tranfield, D. 2009. Producing a systematic review. In Buchanan, David A. (Ed); Bryman, Alan (Ed), The Sage handbook of organizational research methods. , (pp. 671-689). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd, xxxvi, 738 pp. 

  • Writing a good academic essay (or article) requires a number of good choices, such as selecting an interesting area of research, setting the hook for the reader (by explaining why this is an important topic and why your particular angle/question is of great relevance to expand knowledge), critical sense-making of the literature (to decide what is ‘really’ important to take away from the prior literature related to your area of interest), selecting and/or developing a new angle (or framework) (to provide a rationale for missing pieces in the prior literature and for how your approach helps generate novel insights), and reflecting on and discussing the main implications of your work (to support future theoretical and empirical research). 

    The following selected articles are published in the Academy of Management Journal, the leading journal in business research, and should help you get a better feeling for how to craft an ‘exciting’ introduction, ‘critical’ literature review and ‘promising’ conclusion of your essay work. 

    Colquitt JA, George G. (2011). Publishing in AMJ: Topic Choice, Academy of Management Journal 54: 432-435. 

    Grant, A. M., & Pollock, T. G. 2011. Publishing in AMJ- Part 3: Setting the hook. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 873-879 

    Geletkanycz, M. and Tepper, B.J. (2012) Publishing in AMJ – part 6: discussing the implications. Academy of Management Journal 55: 256-260. 

    Locke, Karen, and Karen Golden-Biddle (1997). Constructing Opportunities for Contribution: Structuring Intertextual Coherence and ‘Problematizing’ in Organizational Studies. Academy of Management Journal 40: 1023–1062. 

    Tranfield, David, David Denyer, and Palminder Smart. Towards a Methodology for Developing Evidence- Informed Management Knowledge by Means of Systematic Review. British Journal of Management 14: 207–222. 

    Shepherd, D. A., and H. Patzelt. Trailblazing in Entrepreneurship. Accessed August 27, 2017. 319-48701-4.pdf. 

    Sparrowe, R.T. and Mayer, K.J. (2011), “Publishing in AMJ – part 4: grounding hypotheses”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 54 No. 6, pp. 1098-1102. 

  • Read the course Syllabus carefully. It offers all the information you will need for the completion of this course, including:

    • Learning Content and Outcomes
    • Individual Work Assignment and Evaluation
    • Course Participation
    • General Introductory Readings 
    • Learning Exercises
    • Style Guideline for Writing your Paper
    • 28 Possible Paper Topics

    More useful tips are provided in the presentations available at the Course Materials.