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Theory: role, generation and choice Geoff Walsham Lecture 2 of Course on Interpretive Research in IS - Oslo University.

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Presentation on theme: "Theory: role, generation and choice Geoff Walsham Lecture 2 of Course on Interpretive Research in IS - Oslo University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Theory: role, generation and choice Geoff Walsham Lecture 2 of Course on Interpretive Research in IS - Oslo University

2 Contents of Lecture 2 Theory in research design/data collection Theory in data analysis Theory as final product Grounded theory Theory: generation and choice Some Dos and Don’ts

3 Theory in Research Design and Data Collection Theory as a sensitizing device Example in Walsham (1995): use of Pettigrew’s content, context and process framework to look at IS strategy and implementation

4 Research Questions Generated What IS strategic approaches had the organization adopted? (content) What was the position of this organization in its sector and country? (context) How had the organization tried to implement its stated strategy and with what success? (process)

5 Example: Structuration Theory (see Giddens 1984 - also Walsham 1993) Three dimensions of meaning, norms and power Produced or reproduced in action Emphasis also on unintended consequences of intentional action

6 Interview Questions Generated (e.g. on ERP systems) What do you understand this technology is aimed to do? (meaning) Does this technology require you to do your job in a different way? (norms) Who has required you to use this technology and what are their motives? (power)

7 Interview Questions (continued) What changes in your work, and that of others in the organization, has resulted from the use of this technology? (production). What has stayed the same? (reproduction) Did any unexpected things occur in the use of the technology? And what happened as a consequence? (unintended consequences)

8 Theory in Data Analysis Data collection followed by data analysis is too linear a model Theory can be valuable prior to data collection, during data collection and after data collection If, for example, you have used a theory to inform data collection, then it can also be used for data analysis

9 An Example of Data Analysis - Knowledge Management Systems (Walsham 2004) Data on use of contact recording systems by salespeople in a pharmaceutical company Recorded details of their visits to doctors on database - available to others - ‘sharing’ knowledge

10 Two Acts of Tacit Knowing (Polanyi 1969) ‘Both the way we endow our own utterances with meaning and our attribution of meaning to the utterances of others are acts of tacit knowing. This represents sense- giving and sense-reading within the structure of tacit knowing.’

11 Applied to the Pharmaceutical Example Understanding of interaction with doctors (cognitive; sense-reading - person A) Putting the experience into words (performative; sense-giving - person A) Interpreting the result (cognitive; sense- reading - person B)

12 Difference Between The First and Third of These (Polanyi 1969) ‘We may say that the observed meaning of an experience differs structurally from one conveyed in (words) … the first meaning is immediately experienced while the second is only present in thought.’

13 Theory as Final Product Theory can be the output of the work Popular with the top journals and examiners! But ‘new’ does not have to be completely new - can be addition, reinterpretation etc

14 Action and reflection [Person A] Re-presentation through voice, data, text, diagrams etc. [Person A] ‘Reading’ of representation [Person B] Action and reflection [Person B] A Model of Basic Communication (Walsham 2004)

15 A Sociological Complement (Walsham 2004) What are the reasons for particular re- presentations (or deliberate misrepresentations) made by human actors? What is represented and for whom? Who requires particular representations, and for what purpose? What incentives (or disincentives) are provided for specific representations?

16 Grounded Theory Due originally to Glaser and Strauss (1967) Welcome emphasis on learning from the data rather than imposing a prior theoretical view I like the above emphasis but find the specific approach (and its later variants) too programmatic for my taste I prefer a balanced picture of learning from prior theory + learning from the data

17 Some Don’ts of Theory Generation and Choice Don’t fix on one theory and then read nothing else Don’t leave theory generation until the end of your study Don’t dismiss a theory’s value until you have read about it in depth

18 Some Dos of Theory Generation and Choice Do listen to what others find valuable Do read widely on different theories Do choose theories which ‘speak’ to you (not because they are the current fashion)

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