Improving Our Paper
NOTE: Know your own research proposal from this class and how you could improve it.

In this research project, we analyzed 161 key research papers for the methodologies used. Finding were presented by methodology type and by MIS domain. We defined each methodology and discussed their relationship to positivism and interpretivism, which are also compared and discussed.

Improving Our Paper

  • We individually classified the papers according to methodology and then compiled them. We could have worked in teams of two to make sure the papers were classified correctly.
  • We could show which methodologies are gaining and waning over time.
  • We could have coded each paper for how positive/interpretive its approach was to answering the research question. With codings, we could have come up with empirical evidence that related research method with positivism/interpretivism, or research field with positivism/interpretivism.
  • Some papers used two or three methodologies. It would have been interesting to see which methodologies co-existed most often

Major Findings

Design science is used in 22% (35 of 161 papers) of all the key research papers, which frequency is double the nearest competitor. If you combine design science with system development and prototyping (because the two later methods also emphasize creating artifacts and could easily be constructed using design science principles) the frequency is 42% (67 of 161 papers) of all key research papers. The overall conclusion is that design science and other methods that develop artifacts, are the predominant research methodologies used by key MIS researchers among their key papers.

MIS Domain Predominant Methodology Used in Key Papers
AI Lab Experiments
Collaboration Lab Experiments and Prototyping
Data Management Design Science
Economics of Informatics Mathematical Modeling
HCI Descriptive Research
Operations Management Mathematical Modeling
Social Informatics Descriptive Research, Argumentative Research, Field Study
Systems Analysis and Design Design Science

Defining Research Methodologies

The following are several methodologies used in IS research. While the list attempts to be comprehensive, some may argue that a particular methodology is described by another. We recognize that there may be overlap, and we discuss the relationship between methodologies in the next section of this paper.

Action Research

In action research, the researcher wants to try out a theory with practitioners in real situations, gain feedback from this experience, modify the theory as a result of this feedback and try it again. Action research consists of many iteration. Each iteration of the action research process adds to the theory so it is more likely to be appropriate for a variety of situations.


Argumentative research uses logical arguments to arrive at a supposed truth. Postulates and axioms are constructed into a logical progression, that if all true, the conclusion must also be true.

Design Science

Creates and evaluates IT artifacts intended to solve identified organizational problems. Design science is inherently a problem solving process. DS seeks to create innovations that define the idea, practices, technical capabilities, and products through which the analysis, design, implementation, management, and use of IS can be effectively and efficiently accomplished. DS can use a combination of other research methodologies to achieve the research aim.

Case Studies

A case study is a particular method of primarily qualitative research. Rather than using large samples and following a rigid protocol to examine a limited number of variables, case study methods involve an in-depth, longitudinal examination of a single instance or event: a case.

Ethnographic research

Ethnography refers to the genre of writing or research that presents qualitative description of human social phenomena, based on fieldwork. Ethnography presents the results of a holistic research method founded on the idea that a system's properties cannot necessarily be accurately understood independently of each other. The genre has both formal and historical connections to travel writing and colonial office reports. Several academic traditions, in particular the constructivist and relativist paradigms, claim ethnographic research as a valid research method. It can also include case suites, interviews, long-term studies of sites.

Field Experiments

Research done in a less controlled, natural environment, but must still be quantitative and include experiment research principles such as random selection.

Field Studies

Research done not in a laboratory but in the natural environment; it may be observational only, it may include experimental interaction with the subjects in the field.

Game-Role Playing

As-if experiments in which the subject is asked to behave as if he or she were a particular person in a particular situation. It requires a human subject playing a role or simulating a behavior. It may be conducted in a laboratory or interactively in the field.

Historical methodology

The historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence to research and then to write history. The question of the nature, and indeed the possibility, of sound historical method is raised in the philosophy of history, as a question of epistemology. The examination of societies of social unites over time and in comparison with one another. Ideographic.

Laboratory Experiment

This methodology is the most common and consists of empirical and quantitative research done in a controlled environment.

Mathematical Models

Abstract model using mathematics to describe system behavior; include independent variables, constants; may be derivable through proof; has a quantitative outcome that is verifiable via a proof or via experiments.

Pluralistic Methodology

This methodology differs from the reset in that if encourages using multiple research methodologies to achieve the scientific goal.


Research to discover solutions to problems. Developing a prototype, testing the prototype with measurable results.


Enhances purely mathematical models when elementary functions alone cannot describe the solution. Generates samples of data from running multiple simulation, usually includes variables too numerous to put into one mathematical model or that cannot be derived via a mathematical proof and is generally not experimentally verifiable in the full-scale natural environment.

System Development

This research methodology can be thought of as “proof by demonstration.” It consists of five stages; concept design, constructing the architecture of the system; prototyping; product development; technology transfer.


This is a research methodology that relies on gathering research data via interviews and surveys instruments. The data is quantitative but usually reflects subjective opinions on a qualitative matters.

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