Research Methdologies and Mis Research

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RESEARCH METHDOLOGIES
AND MIS RESEARCH
A. Milton Jenkins
Indiana University
U.S.A.

Abstract
This paper describes the process of conducting research emphasizing the steps of defining the research objectives and selecting an appropriate research methodology. The various research methodologies employed in MIS research are described and then compared based on their relative strengths and weaknesses. The thesis of this paper is that a clear, unambiguous statement of the research objective is necessary to enable the selection of an appropriate research methodology and that the selection of an appropriate methodology is critical to ensuring that the research will contribute to the body of knowledge in MIS.

Introduction
The objective of this paper is to describe and discuss the process of conducting research, the role of research methodologies, and the quality of current research in the Management Information Systems (MIS) field. Two fundamental assertions are made. The first is that there is a fundamental research process, and that it is applicable to all research. Each step in this process is necessary in all research projects. The extent to which a researcher remains aware of these steps significantly impacts the quality of his/her research. Skipping any step will seriously limit the study’s contribution to knowledge in the field. The most critical step in the research process is the definition of the research topic. This step must produce a clear and precise statement of the objectives of the study. An unambiguously stated objective is essential in guiding the decisions and tradeoffs that are required in the next and subsequent steps.

The second assertion is that there are a large number of research methodologies that are applicable to MIS research. Given the diversity of the MIS field, it is folly to assert a “one best way” approach to conducting MIS research. However, the selection of a “best

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methodology” for any particular research project is critical to the resulting quality and value of that project. The selection of the best methodology must be determined within the context of the research objective.

This paper briefly illustrates the diversity that characterizes current MIS research. Next the research process is superficially described. Countless books have been written describing each of the steps in this process and the systems within which it operates. (Selected references to a few of these works are provided.) Next, a major decision within one of the steps in the research process (research strategy) is examined. The decision is the selection of the appropriate research methodology, a methodology that will best facilitate the researcher attaining her/his stated research objectives. The key to selecting the best methodology for any research project is recognizing the available methodologies and understanding their relative strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, this section of the paper provides a comparative analysis of the vast majority of research methodologies that have

been employed in MIS research. Finally, the paper concludes with some observations and comments on current MIS research activities. These comments and observations are principally based upon the
author’s experiences over the last eight years as an editor for MIS research on several journals and in conducting seminars with MIS doctoral students that focus on critically evaluating the MIS research literature. Others have put forth similar comments; for example see Dickson et al. (1980), Ives et al. (1980), and Keen (1980). These comments and observations are intended to stimulate thought and discussion.

Diversity in MIS Research
The purpose of this section is to provide a brief illustration of the diversity commonly encountered by an academic researcher in the MIS field and the consequent need to employ various research methodologies. These examples are drawn from the author’s work over the last few...
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