Research Methods, Theorizing, and Philosophy

Track Chairs

Shirley Gregor

Australian National University

Benjamin Mueller

University of Groningen

Anand Gopal

University of Maryland


The progress of the IS field over the last two decades has witnessed powerful and impactful methodological and theoretical developments across multiple domains. While the centrality of theory and theorizing in the field has remained, the development of new and novel approaches to theory-building, alongside the ability to utilize new methods for empirical testing, have made this a particularly exciting time to be an IS researcher. These developments are driven by four concurrent advances – the advent of new technologies and artifacts in the field, an increased ability to capture and collect micro-level data, the development of statistical and analytical tools to extract insight from this data, and an increased sensitivity to perspectives that transcend the IS discipline per se. As a discipline that spans technology and human behavior, we are in a unique position to offer fresh thinking on foundational issues that become increasingly important with the ubiquity and power of digital innovation.

While opportunities abound, therefore, for the IS researcher, there are also new questions and challenges that emerge regarding the philosophical underpinnings of what is acceptable, reasonable, and publishable. Indeed, as a vital and growing field of enquiry, it is necessary for us, as members of the IS community, to invest in a systematic discussion of the evolution of these new approaches to research, while also re-evaluating the moral and philosophical implications associated with these opportunities. An informed discussion of evolving theoretical and methodological research approaches as well as their places in current IS research will help for two reasons. First, it will disseminate a revised set of acceptable norms and principles to the community at large. Second, it will provide guidelines for where gaps still exist in our understanding of the IS artifact, and its interactions with individuals, organizations, and society.

It is common for academic fields reaching a level of maturity to “take stock” of their research traditions – ICIS represents one such venue for performing this “stock taking” on a recurring basis for our field. This track represents the forum for conducting challenging debates. We invite submissions that address underlying questions of theory and theorizing, methodology, and philosophy within IS research. Specifically, we are interested in papers that, either through argumentation or through methodological rigor, push the envelope in terms of what is known and acceptable within the IS community.

Topics of Interest

The types of topics we invite discussion on include, but are not limited to:

  • Conceptual treatises on new and emerging theories in the IS domain
    • Theoretical perspectives that build on existing theoretical paradigms to extend them into new theoretical arguments
    • Theoretical analyses of new domains and contexts, that simply did not exist in previous time periods (for instance, the use of Twitter in political campaigns)
    • Novel interpretations of theoretical paradigms new contexts that highlight contradictions and conflicts, while providing new insights (for instance, the potential of mobile devices to increase market reach for marketers while also affecting individual privacy)
    • Application of theoretical perspectives in the process of designing new IT artifacts, their interactions with societal agents, or their interaction with each other (for instance, applications around the Internet of Things or the use of agent-based modeling for theoretical explorations)
    • Extending theories into multi-layer contexts through explicitly recognizing layer-specific heterogeneity – theory at a greater level of granularity
  • New methodological approaches to IS research that build on the combination of structured and unstructured data, as well as their philosophical underpinnings
    • The use of massive randomized field and lab experiments for causal inference
    • Netnographical approaches to understanding discourse and interactions in online and mobile communities
    • Unsupervised and supervised machine learning techniques, applied to the IS artifact or data generated through IS artifacts, for generating insight
    • Agent-based models as well as mathematical modeling of micro-level interactions
    • Grounded theory perspectives on new forms of interactions between individuals and the IT artifact
    • Large-scale statistical models using publicly available datasets (Census data, weather data, governmental data) that address vital IS-related societal questions, with insights on the ability to make causal arguments
  • Evaluations and critiques of trends in IS research, from a methodological or theoretical perspective
    • Reviews of ontological, epistemological, and methodological issues in IS research
    • Ethical or moral considerations in IS research, and the increasing concerns for privacy and security
    • Developments of new frameworks or models of IS research, with implications for evaluation of research, acceptability within the community, and the publication process
    • Evaluations of the evaluators – or critiquing the field itself (for instance, how are we, as a community of applied organizational and business researchers, doing)
    • Enhancing cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary work in IS (for instance, to what extent are we informing our colleagues in the reference disciplines)
  • Criteria for evaluating papers within this track
    • Does the paper push the boundaries of the field in terms of research paradigms, ethics, logics, norms, or institutions?
    • Is there a significant theoretical extension to the literature in the paper? That is, does it advance a set of theoretical arguments that are novel?
    • Is there a clear methodological contribution? Does the methodology enable us to see what could not be seen before? Note that pure methods development is not adequate, if it is not targeted at an important question.
    • Is the domain of the paper novel, in the sense that there are no exemplars of similar work within recent IS published research?

Associate Editors

  • Ahmed Abbasi, University of Virginia, USA
  • Bendik Bygstad, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Dubravka Cecez-Kecmanovic, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • Amany Elbana, Royal Holloway University of London, UK
  • Ulrich Frank, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
  • Albrecht Fritzsche, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany
  • Matt Hashim, University of Arizona, USA
  • Nik Hassan, University of Minnesota Duluth, USA
  • Dirk Hovorka, University of Sydney, Australia
  • Nishtha Langer, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA
  • Kai Larsen, University of Colorado Boulder, USA
  • Julien Malaurent, ESSEC Business School, France
  • Shawn Mankad, Cornell University, USA
  • Michael Myers, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • John Mingers, University of Kent, UK
  • Chitu Okoli, SKEMA Business School, France
  • Jeff Parsons, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
  • Bill Rand, North Carolina State University, USA
  • Ulrike Schultze, Southern Methodist University, USA
  • Galit Shmueli, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan
  • Ning Su, Western University, Canada