Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Speech Communication

First Advisor

Stucky, Nathan


In recent years, entrepreneurship studies scholars have begun studying entrepreneurship from a process-oriented philosophy and with an interest in the prosaic, everyday practices of entrepreneurs. In keeping with these "new movement" approaches, I have tried to "catch" entrepreneurship as it is happening within the field of private investigations. An in-depth, two-year field study of private investigators engaged in the entwined practices of investigating and entrepreneuring was conducted. Methodologically, I shadowed five private investigators and interviewed an additional 25. Because shadowing is an emergent methodology, an in-depth discussion of conducting and writing shadowing research is provided. As noted in this discussion, it is important that writing remain primarily descriptive yet linked to dominant contemporary discourses. Consequently, an overview of dominant narrative themes in popular and academic discourses about private investigating and entrepreneurship are included. Based on the framework of this methodology, dominant narrative themes, and field notes, various culturally-situated accounts of private investigator practices are offered. The findings of this research project suggest that private investigators use various rhetorical and practical strategies to successfully and simultaneously complete investigative and business-related tasks, such as "planting suspicions," using gender and race to strategically position themselves in relation to others in opportunistic ways, and incorporating contemporary technology into their work routines. Drawing on actor-network-theory, I argue that opportunities are enacted through a series of taken-for-granted and everyday interactions among subjects and objects. This research privileges descriptive accounts over theory-building. However, the descriptive accounts of the practices of subjects and objects suggest pragmatic solutions for private investigators to create and manage entrepreneurial opportunities. For example, I propose that private investigators should collectively engage in practices that further professionalize their field. Such professionalizing activities would include, among other things, engaging in knowledge accumulation through academic and professional research activities and professional association public relations campaigns. Insights are also provided regarding the role of rhetoric and technology in opportunity creation and destruction. Readers interested in organization communication and theory will find many of the descriptions to be empirically rich examples of ethno-methods used by actors in highly institutionalized contexts. Similarly, these scholars may also find the descriptions to validate recent arguments regarding organizing as "hybridized actions" (or action nets) occurring in multiple spaces, places, and times. The examples herein demonstrate the usefulness of shadowing as an approach to understanding organizing practices, especially in fields where actors are always "on the move." Readers interested in private investigating will find many of the examples rich in techniques that will enhance profitability. Finally, readers interested in entrepreneurship studies will undoubtedly find many novel potential research projects that are embedded in the various thick descriptions throughout the document.




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