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Information Systems Foundations: Theory Building in Information Systems

Information Systems Foundations: Theory Building in Information Systems

Dennis N. Hart
Shirley D. Gregor
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Information Systems Foundations: Theory Building in Information Systems
    Book Description:

    This volume presents the papers from the fifth biennial Information Systems Foundations Workshop, held at The Australian National University in Canberra from 30 September to 1 October 2010. The focus of the workshop was, as for the others in the series, the foundations of information systems as an academic discipline. The emphasis in the 2010 workshop was on theory building in information systems, which is a non-trivial and difficult issue because the field deals with such a wide range of phenomena, from the highly technological in nature to the distinctly human and organisational in focus. The theory building problem stems from the fact that the sciences that underlie and deal with technologically-oriented fields generally result in theories that fit within the 'covering law' model—that is, are assumed and believed to have universal applicability and explanatory and predictive power—whereas, by contrast, theories in the human sciences are generally much more conditional, contextual, tentative and open to exceptions. Successfully marrying the two is, not surprisingly, a challenge that the chapters in this volume explore.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-94-6
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Shirley Gregor and Dennis Hart
  5. The Papers
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Dennis Hart and Shirley Gregor
  6. Part One: Fundamental Issues

    • 1. Theory Building in the Information Systems Discipline: Some critical reflections
      (pp. 1-20)
      Ron Weber

      For many researchers, the development of theory within their discipline is the central goal—the ‘jewel in the crown’—of their research endeavours (for example, Eisenhardt, 1989). By articulating high-quality theory, they believe they are more likely to enhance their own knowledge of, other scholars’ knowledge of and practitioners’ capabilities to operate effectively and efficiently in their domain of interest.

      In spite of the importance ascribed to theory by many researchers, the development of theory has been a relatively neglected feature of research within the information systems (IS) discipline. As a result, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, several...

    • 2. Obstacles to Building Effective Theory about Attitudes and Behaviours Towards Technology
      (pp. 21-54)
      Mary Tate and Joerg Evermann

      Ever since the days of Keen and Weber, influential thinkers within the information systems (IS) discipline have bemoaned the lack of a cumulative research tradition (Keen, 1980; Weber, 1997). For the discipline to progress, it has been suggested, IS research needs fewer frameworks and more ongoing cumulative lines of inquiry (Keen, 1980; Weber, 1997).

      More recently, some have argued that the academic legitimacy of the field does not necessarily depend on having a core of theory, but on the strength of results and their salience to practice (Lyytinen and King, 2004). Despite this, there continues to be a strong emphasis,...

    • 3. Untangling Causality in Design Science Theorising
      (pp. 55-76)
      Dirk S. Hovorka and Shirley Gregor

      Design science research (DSR) seeks to create new knowledge through the process of designing, building and evaluating information system artefacts. Designed systems are teleological in nature: they have an intended purpose, and designers and users have expectations of specific observable outcomes as a direct result of implementation and use. The purpose of design lies in shaping artefacts and events to create a more desirable future (Boland, 2002). As these systems are intended to mediate or intervene in personal, group or organisational activities to produce specific outcomes, they are perceived to have causal agency, either implicitly or explicitly. Any proposed design...

  7. Part Two: Theories and Theorising in Practice

    • 4. Theorising about the Life Cycle of IT Use: An appropriation perspective
      (pp. 79-112)
      Justin Fidock and Jennie Carroll

      Understanding and predicting the use of information systems (IS) are two of the central concerns for IS researchers and practitioners (Benbasat and Zmud, 2003; DeLone and McLean, 1992; Karahanna et al., 1999; McLean et al., 2002; Trice and Treacy, 1988). A system that is under-utilised, misused or avoided altogether will not achieve the intentions of its designers or those who have procured the system. Given its centrality for both researchers and practitioners, it is important to identify the ways in which researchers choose to theorise about use. This is because the choice of theory influences what is included or excluded...

    • 5. A Critical Systems Thinking Perspective for IS Adoption
      (pp. 113-132)
      Syed Arshad Raza and Craig Standing

      Failures in information systems (IS) or information technology (IT) projects quite frequently occur, indicating the challenging nature of the IS/IT project management task (Azzara and Garone, 2003; Chen and Latendresse, 2003). Standing et al. (2006), among many others, have identified the major reasons for such failures as the lack of user support and involvement, lack of support and commitment of executive management, imprecisely defined project objectives and poor project management and leadership.

      The application and use of IT in organisations have been extensively researched over the past few decades. The technology acceptance model, or TAM (Davis, 1989; Davis et al.,...

    • 6. Advancing Task-Technology Fit Theory: A formative measurement approach to determining task-channel fit for electronic banking channels
      (pp. 133-170)
      Hartmut Hoehle and Sid Huff

      More than three decades ago, Peter Keen emphasised the need for a ‘cumulative tradition’ in information systems (IS) research. He suggested that a cumulative tradition requires IS researchers to ‘build on each other’s work’ (Keen, 1980).

      Since his call, much attention has been paid to theory development in IS research. Evermann and Tate (2009) noted that prominent instances of successful theory development include the DeLone and McLean (1992) information systems success model, the technology acceptance model (TAM) (Davis, 1989), as well as the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) (Venkatesh et al., 2003).

      Task-technology fit (TTF) theory...

    • 7. Theory Building in Action: Structured-case with action interventions
      (pp. 171-190)
      Gerlinde Koeglreiter, Ross Smith and Luba Torlina

      This chapter discusses recent developments in the application of the structured-case (SC) approach of Carroll and Swatman (Carroll, 2000; Carroll and Swatman, 2000). Specifically, a theory-building approach using action research (AR) interventions as part of a larger program of research undertaken in an SC mode is presented.

      Structured-case and AR share characteristics that facilitate their combined use, including the iterative conduct of research cycles that are structured into phases of planning, data collection, analysis and reflection. Further, both methodologies support research conducted within the interpretive research paradigm.

      For the study described in this chapter, a methodology was required that would...

    • 8. The Unit of Analysis in IS Theory: The case for activity
      (pp. 191-214)
      Helen Hasan and Sumayya Banna

      In the field of IS, researchers regularly use existing theories from more established disciplines to interpret or make sense of their data. They also adapt or combine these theories to create new theoretical frameworks in order to make them more appropriate to the particular requirements of IS research. In addition, IS researchers build new theories of various types (Gregor, 2006) from their research findings.

      The way theory is used, adapted or created usually assumes a certain unit of analysis, which could be the artefact, the system, the organisation, the user, the developer, the team or something else. We are not...

    • 9. IT-Driven Modernisation in Agriculture: New theories for a new phenomenon
      (pp. 215-238)
      Lapo Mola, Cecilia Rossignoli, Walter Fernandez and Andrea Carugati

      The impact of technology on an organisation is a classic topic in information systems (IS) research. Typically, however, the level of analysis is the organisation itself, or teams or individual people within it. The tendency is to move to ‘lower’ levels of analysis with ever finer research instruments. Consequently, IS theories often fail us when we want to theorise, not about an organisation wanting to implement a particular new internal system, but rather about an organisation that wants to change an entire sector or industry. This problem is not uncommon, with examples ranging from a government that wants to change...

    • 10. Competing with Business Analytics: Research in progress
      (pp. 239-250)
      Harjot Singh Dod and Rajeev Sharma

      Business analytics (BA) is a new and upcoming field in information systems (IS) research. Kohavi et al. (2002) argue that the strategic value of business analytics has led to significant development of business applications in areas that analyse customer data. These applications have been used to ‘reduce customer attrition, improve customer profitability, increase the value of e-commerce purchases, and increase the response of direct mail and email marketing campaigns’ (Kohavi et al., 2002, p. 47). Applications in other areas like finance, marketing, production, manufacturing, human resources and research and development have also been described in the literature (Davenport, 2006; Kohavi...

  8. Part Three: The Big Picture

    • 11. Theory: An informatics perspective
      (pp. 253-262)

      Suppose you are driving your car out in the country on a fine day. You are listening to a radio play on the stereo, watching the road, enjoying the view and the whole motoring experience. A police car appears out of nowhere and invites you to pull over. You do so, get out of your car and talk with the policeman. He says you were driving over the speed limit, that the speed limit on that stretch of road is 100 km/h and you were driving at 111 km/h according to his radar. In accordance with the Motor Traffic Act,...