A Mixed-Methods Strategy for Small Samples in Ill-Structured Literature





Research Strategy, Mixed-method Research, Small Sample, Social Entrepreneurship, Taxonomy


This paper contributes to general research by providing a tested protocol to extract structured information with analytical and statistical significance from an exploratory context, despite small samples. Exploring new trends in business and management can be challenging. Sometimes the singularity of the phenomenon observed, or its novelty, offers small samples. The research protocol was developed to study social business models, providing understanding of differences between profiles of a taxonomy. Results were consistent when applied to other samples. The research protocol relies on a mixed method based on pattern identification through qualitative and quantitative analysis.  Detailed methodological decisions and procedures offer a guide for dealing with ill-structured literature lacking consensus and empirical studies, addressing emergent phenomena. The theoretical background is developed in two parts: first, by contextualizing the literature where the mixed-method protocol was developed, and second, by referencing various business and management studies that informed the protocol. The research evaluated significant differences in social business models dimensions and profiles, aiming to classify them and understand how these differences influence social value creation. In the absence of theoretical definitions, social investment and award criteria were researched. The research context, including its strengths and constraints, is explained to assist researchers facing similar challenges. Online data and interviews underwent content and pattern-matching analysis to fill a model selected from the literature. This exploratory research helped overcome theoretical limitations and incorporated diverse perspectives needed to understand social entrepreneurship. The mixed-method strategy identified profiles and classified business models, proposing a taxonomy. The resulting taxonomy is supported by the literature and consistent with the contexts where it has emerged. All procedures are described with examples from the research project to enhance understanding and usage. This comprehensive approach allows researchers to navigate the complexities of social entrepreneurial literature, contributing to a more nuanced understanding of the field.

Author Biographies

Irene Ciccarino, University Institute of Lisbon (BRU-ISCTE-IUL)

Irene Ciccarino is Ph.D. in business management from Pontifical Catholic University (PUC-Rio) and lectures at the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal. Her main research areas are strategy, entrepreneurship, and innovation, currently emphasizing the process of social value creation through innovation and public policies. She was a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and Castelo Branco University. She also worked in several MBAs and post-graduation courses in Brazil and Portugal. Project management specialist (PMP and Project Dpro), she has worked as a consultant since 2003 in private, public, and not-for-profit organizations.

Jorge da Silva, IAG - Business School of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)

Dr. Jorge Ferreira da Silva is Professor of Strategy and International Business at the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC-Rio) and one of the top researchers in Business in the ranking of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CNPq). Dr. Da Silva has published in journals such as the Journal of Business Research, European Journal of Innovation Management, Journal of International Entrepreneurship, Latin American Business Review, and Brazilian Administration Review. Dr. Da Silva was Vice-Dean of Graduate Programs at IAG Business School for 15 years and President of ANPAD, the Brazilian Academy of Management, from 2010 to 2015.