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Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

Qualitative Methods in IS Research

Qualitative Methods in IS Research
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Author(s): Eileen M. Trauth (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 3
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch506


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As information technologies have evolved, so too has our understanding of the information systems that employ them. A significant part of this evolving understanding is the role of the human contexts within which information systems are situated. This, in turn, has led to the need for appropriate methods of studying information systems in their context of use. Just as decisions about information systems need to be considered within their contexts of use, so also do choices about the appropriate research methodologies to employ for studying them. Increasingly, qualitative methods are chosen as an appropriate method for studying contextual aspects of information systems development, use and impact. Qualitative research refers to research methods that engage in the interpretation of words and images rather than the calculation of numbers. These methods include: ethnography, case study, action research, interviews, and text analysis (i.e., conversation analysis, discourse analysis, and hermeneutics). Qualitative research can be theory-driven in much the same way as quantitative analysis. However, it can also employ grounded theory techniques in order to develop theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Following some early uses of qualitative methods in the 1980s (e.g., Benbasat et al., 1987; Kaplan & Duchon, 1988; Lee, 1989; Mumford et al., 1985), there has been a significant growth in the use of qualitative methods for information systems research since the 1990s (e.g., Journal of Information Technology, 1998; Lee et al., 1997; MIS Quarterly, 1999, 2000; Nissen et al., 1991; Trauth, 2001). Accompanying the increased use of qualitative methods for IS research has been a discussion of various methodological issues. Among the key aspects of this dialogue are discussions about the suitability of qualitative methods for various types of research and issues arising from a particular type of qualitative methods: interpretive methods. This article presents a reflection on some these discussions in the form of a consideration of five factors that can influence the choice of qualitative (particularly interpretive) methods for information systems research.

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