European Journal of Information Systems

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 395–417 | Cite as

An historically grounded critical analysis of research articles in IS

  • François-Xavier de VaujanyEmail author
  • Isabelle Walsh
  • Nathalie Mitev
Original Article


In order to explore scientific writing in Information Systems (IS) journals, we adopt a combination of historical and rhetorical approaches. We first investigate the history of universities, business schools, learned societies and scientific articles. This perspective allows us to capture the legacy of scientific writing standards, which emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries. Then, we focus on two leading IS journals (EJIS and MISQ). An historical analysis of both outlets is carried out, based on data related to their creation, evolution of editorial statements, and key epistemological and methodological aspects. We also focus on argumentative strategies found in a sample of 436 abstracts from both journals. Three main logical anchorages (sometimes combined) are identified, and related to three argumentative strategies: ‘deepening of knowledge’, ‘solving an enigma’ and ‘addressing a practical managerial issue’. We relate these writing norms to historical imprints of management and business studies, in particular: enigma-focused rhetorics, interest in institutionalized literature, neglect for managerially grounded rhetoric and lack of reflexivity in scientific writing. We explain this relation as a quest for academic legitimacy. Lastly, some suggestions are offered to address the discrepancies between these writing norms and more recent epistemological and theoretical stances adopted by IS researchers.


argumentative strategies history academic writing legitimacy 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the clear and constructive reviews from the associate editor, the senior editor and all the reviewers on the earlier versions of this article. Their comments have substantially helped us improve our work. They also thank Steve Smithson and Jonathan Liebenau of the London School of Economics for their time.


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Copyright information

© Operational Research Society 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • François-Xavier de Vaujany
    • 1
    Email author
  • Isabelle Walsh
    • 2
  • Nathalie Mitev
    • 3
  1. 1.Management et Organisation (CREPA), Université Paris-DauphineParisFrance
  2. 2.EM Strasbourg Business School, Strasbourg UniversityStrasbourgFrance
  3. 3.Department of ManagementLondon School of EconomicsLondon

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