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Addressing the Shortcomings of Interpretive Field Research: Reflecting Social Construction in the Write-Up

  • Ulrike Schultze
  • Michael D. Myers
  • Eileen M. Trauth
Chapter
Part of the IFIP — The International Federation for Information Processing book series (IFIPAICT, volume 41)

Abstract

Recent critical discussion of interpretive field research suggests that there exist two major concerns with the state of the art use of interpretive field methods in Information Systems. First, many interpretive researchers pay insufficient attention to critical reflection on how the research materials were socially constructed through interaction between the researchers and the participants in their field studies. Second, it appears that the preferred pattern for interpreting field data is to begin with an a priori theory. This raises concerns not only about unwarranted theoretical bias in researchers’ interpretations, but also about the researcher’s propensity to question his/her assumptions in the process of making sense of the data. The implication of these two shortcomings is that “we are given little understanding of how the researchers’ analysis developed over the course of the project. As it stands, we are presented with a finished piece of interpretive research with few indications of its emergent nature” (Klein and Myers 1999, p. 25). The IS community is thus not given enough insight into how interpretive researchers resolve the contradictions between the theoretical preconceptions guiding their research and the results that are generated.

References

  1. Klein, H. K., and Myers, M. D. “A Set of Principles for Conducting and Evaluating Interpretive Field Studies in Information Systems,” MIS Quarterly (23:1), 1999, pp. 67–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Myers, M. D. “A Disaster for Everyone to See: An Interpretive Analysis of a Failed IS Project,” Accounting, Management and Information Technologies (4:4), 1994, pp. 185–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Schultze, U. “A Confessional Account of an Ethnography about Knowledge Work,” MIS Quarterly (forthcoming, 1999, electronic pre-print available at www.cox.smu.edu/faculty/uschultz/research/).
  4. Trauth, E. M. “Achieving the Research Goal with Qualitative Methods: Lessons Learned Along the Way,” in Information Systems and Qualitative Research, A. S. Lee, J. Liebenau, and J. I. DeGross (eds.). London: Chapman and Hall, 1997, pp. 225–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Van Maanen, J. Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrike Schultze
    • 1
  • Michael D. Myers
    • 2
  • Eileen M. Trauth
    • 3
  1. 1.Southern Methodist UniversityUSA
  2. 2.University of AucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Northeastern UniversityUSA

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