Design Science Research in Information Systems: A Critical Realist Approach

  • Sven A. Carlsson
Part of the Integrated Series in Information Systems book series (ISIS, volume 22)


Information systems (IS) research has serious utilization and relevance problems. To increase IS research utilization and relevance, scholars argue that the dominating behavioral IS research paradigm should be complemented with IS design science research. The most influential IS design science research schools have a strong focus on the IT artifact, in most cases an exclusive focus on the IT artifact. The schools have very little discussions and clarifications regarding underpinning philosophies, but most seem to be based on positivism, traditional realism, or pragmatism. This chapter presents, as a complement to the most influential design science research schools, an alternative approach for IS design science research. The approach builds on the premise that one of the most critical aims of IS design science research is to develop practical knowledge for the design and realization of different classes of IS initiatives, where IS are viewed as socio-technical systems and not just IT artifacts. The underpinning philosophy of the approach is critical realism which has been developed as an alternative to positivism and traditional realism as well as to constructivism (relativism). The developed practical IS design knowledge can be represented in different forms, for example, as heuristic design propositions, design exemplars and patterns, models or frameworks, and stories or narratives. The IS design knowledge can be developed using different methods and techniques. The chapter presents how practical IS design knowledge can be developed as well as the nature of the developed knowledge.


Information System Design Theory Design Knowledge Critical Realism Knowledge Management System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Omar El Sawy and Pertti Järvinen for a number of valuable design science research discussions over the years. For my ideas I owe a lot to my co-researchers and co-authors Stefan Henningsson, Stefan Hrastinski, and Christina Keller.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and ManagementLund UniversityLundSweden

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