A discussion of 3 core issues in Information Systems Research

Information systems research looks at the interface of three aspects of the firm, Technology, Process and People. In this essay, we look at the issues discussed by three of the highly cited papers in Information Systems research.

The article “A Framework for Research in Computer Based MIS” by Blake Ives, Scott Hamilton, Gordon Davis talks about 5 major research models by “Mason & Mitroff”, “Chervany, Dickson & Kozar”, “Lucas”, “Mock” & “Gorry & Scott Morton”. It also forecasts a model to generate future potential hypotheses for research. In the Mason & Mitroff Model, the focus is on defining the IS as A person of a certain Psychological type who faces a problem within some organizational context for which he needs evidence to arrive at a solution, where the evidence is made available through some mode of presentation. In the research by Chervany, Dickson & Kozar, the focus is on the isolation of dependent and independent variables which determine effectiveness of an IS.  Lucas formed a descriptive model of situational, personal & attitudinal variables & their impact on usage of the system & performance of the IS user, where behavioral issues have been studied in depth. Mock studied how behavioral constraints on system developers and users, impact the usage of the system and their individual performances. Gory and Scott Morton focused on how an IS provides information for management decision making. The authors of the paper designs a model with 3 IS environments, 3 IS processes & 1 IS subsystem, existing within an Organizational & External environment. On the basis of interaction between the variables of these types, the author divides IS research into broadly 5 types, 1 to 5, which again are subdivided into multiple subtypes. The framework focuses on providing a basis to formulate a hypothesis which is relevant to MIS research.

The article “The Identity Crisis within the IS Discipline: Defining & communicating the disciplines core properties” by Isaac Bensbasat & Robert Zmud, focuses on what is IS research all about and how to make it a distinct area of research. He focuses on how to build IS research by investigating closely related areas than distant issues. He states the 3 requirements for IS research, that of claimed central character, claimed distinctiveness and claimed temporal continuity required for IS research to evolve as a discipline. He stresses on the need for an identity in the MIS field by obtaining cognitive & socio-political legitimacy. The authors are concerned that the Interdisciplinary nature of IS cause application of varied theories from multidisciplinary backgrounds which is important for building theory but may dilute the focus of research. They express their concerns of errors of exclusion of core constructs & errors of inclusion of non-core construct in studies of IS and IT artifacts. The core properties focusing on the managerial, methodological, technological, operational, behavioral issues and the impacts of IT should be studied in IS research, in the context of the nomological net. IS research should also investigate relationships involving 1/more core constructs only, and heavy reliance on theories of reference disciplines to achieve legitimacy should be minimized.

The article “MIS RESEARCH: Reference disciplines & a Cumulative tradition” by Peter Keen also focuses on suggesting a way in which MIS research may evolve into a classical discipline having its own identity. He states that the concept of having microeconomics & computer science as the reference field limits the scope of MIS research. The researchers should focus on defining the dependent variable in their study and build on the work done by predecessors. The research should now focus on building theory from multiple reference disciplines to help IS keep evolving as a discipline and not build frameworks only. The research should not be dependent on technology evolution but focus on management, information and systems issues. Since MIS as a discipline has strong implications for practice, the focus on theoretical research should not be diluted. The focus of the researchers should be to publish in quality IS journals. Research should focus on the management of the use of technology to benefit business processes and resolve technical, managerial & organizational issues.

All 3 papers focus on mentioning the scope of IS research and what researchers should focus on in the future. They stress on the need for building theory to make MIS evolve as a discipline, and not be too dependent on reference disciplines for the purpose. Also they stress ways to evaluate if a research is actually investigating issues closely related to IS or not. Also they stress on how hypotheses formulation should be done for research in IS and what should the constructs aim to achieve.

Author: Kar

Dr. Kar is in the Information Systems & Management area in one of the top QS Ranked universities of Asia/world. He has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in Indian Institutes. He has published over 100 high impact research papers. He has hundreds of citations as per Google Scholar. He has also authored/edited 4 books. He is the Editor and Founder of Business Fundas. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.