In this study, we introduce the concept of legitimacy to the rigor-relevance debate and investigate empirically how rigor, relevance, and legitimacy are related to the process of knowledge dissemination within a research field. We argue that this analysis has been a missing piece in the debate on rigor and relevance when institutional logics about what constitutes both elements lead researchers to act according to what they perceive to be appropriate behavior in the research field. We draw on insights from the micro and macro levels of institutional theory to show how researchers aiming to bestow legitimacy on their own work conform to these “rules of the game”. Using meta-analytical techniques, we focus on the field of strategic entrepreneurship and analyze how rigor- and relevance-related characteristics of studies in this field are linked to their legitimacy and therefore to the impact they have in the research community.
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