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Dedoose in the Field: Geography - Ben Spigel

3/29/2013
Unraveling the Importance of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems with Qualitative Research 

headshotBen Spigel is a user in the field of Geography, currently using Dedoose to finish off his dissertation at the University of Toronto. Ben came to us after using other programs such as Nvivo and decided to try Dedoose. He was a bit skeptical about us at first, but after having his suggestions heard and put into action by the Dedoose team, he has become one of our most vocal and supportive users. In fact, when we posted about our conference schedule this year and asked for suggestions on additional conferences, Ben recommended that we attend the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting We checked it out and liked what we saw. And now, we get to meet Ben in person in Los Angeles at this AAG conference next week. We could not be more honored to have him as a dedicated user for the past two years and we are excited to share his research with the rest of our user community.

About Ben

“I'm a PhD candidate (soon to graduate!) in the geography department at the University of Toronto. My main interests are innovation, entrepreneurship and regional development. I'm trying to figure out why some cities seem to be so good at producing really innovative, high-tech firms while others lag behind. My dissertation looks at how regionally-based cultures affect the entrepreneurship process and how different policies and programs can encourage new and better attitudes about entrepreneurship in a community.”

What’s your project all about?ben spigel 2

“Conceptually, my goal is to figure out how researchers can better think about culture. Too often in both academic and policy work, culture is seen as a kind of 'black box' — we know it matters but we can't figure out how or why it does. Without this in-depth understanding, it's hard to understand exactly how cultures affect people and how this might change over time.”

Why entrepreneurship research?

“I'm getting my PhD in economic geography, but I've worked closely with management scholars, sociologists and political scientists. I find entrepreneurs endlessly fascinating and I really wanted to figure out not just what makes them tick, but why where they are matters.”

“One of the most interesting aspects of entrepreneurship research is the focus on 'entrepreneurial ecosystems' — the combinations of economic opportunities, investors and advisors, skilled workers, knowledge and tolerance for risk found within a region. Regions like Silicon Valley have a great entrepreneurial ecosystem that has evolved naturally over time, but there is a whole lot of interest in how regions without these ecosystems can develop them. However, while we know that culture plays a really important part of this ecosystem, we don't know its exact role. If millions of dollars of public and private money are going to be invested trying to create these ecosystems, we need to know how regional cultures are created, evolve over time, and how they actually influence entrepreneurs.”

What methods are you using? Qualitative? Mixed Methods?

“I'm mainly a qualitative researcher. As part of my research, I carried out 110 interviews with technology entrepreneurs, investors and economic development officials in three Canadian cities. That added up to over 70 hours of taped conversations or 3000 pages of typed transcripts! I used what's known as a 'close dialog' methodology, where I try to ask questions to understand the reasoning behind the various decisions and choices entrepreneurs made and how this related to their larger cultural context. My main techniques are to assign codes for different practices and causes and use parametric and non-parametric statistical tests to compare them between regions or types of entrepreneurs (for instance, young go-getters or older business people). This allowed me to make rigorous comparisons using a great deal of qualitative data.”

How are you using Dedoose to meet your research needs?

User Submitted Dedoose Quote

“I started looking into Dedoose when I was just starting my dissertation research. I had used programs like NVivo in the past and I was really disappointed with how user unfriendly they were. I remember spending hours trying to get NVivo to do what should have been very simple tasks.

I chose to use Dedoose, even though it was a bit rough around the edges at the time because I felt that it had a strong development team that was committed to making the best software on the market. I remember that I had almost given up in frustration after the first month and shot off an e-mail to the lead developer with some suggestions. The next day I think he called me up to discuss my ideas and convinced me to give it a second chance. I'm glad I did because I've been really impressed with the development and quality improvements I've seen over the past 2 years.”

What is your number one tip for using Dedoose that you want to share with the Dedoose community?

“I don't do anything too fancy — mostly just coding and managing my data with descriptors. I'd encourage everyone to get familiar with the data set tab, this lets you have some pretty fine grained control over what documents or codes you're looking at, which is really valuable during the analysis process.”

Want more info on Ben?

Ben is finishing up his PhD, so his project will be all finished up by May. Follow his research and find more information about his dissertation on his blog!

Find more about Ben at www.benspigel.com.

Ben Spigel PhD Candidate Department of Geography University of Toronto

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