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Abstract

Much recent debate focuses on the nature of information systems as an academic endeavour and whether it constitutes a single, coherent subject discipline in its own right. This paper comments particularly on the recent paper by Benbasat and Zmud [2003] that proposes an IT artifact model to provide an integrative theme for IS research, and the response by Alter [2003] who presents an alternative paradigm that emphasizes the importance of systems. The approach taken here is to define the terminology of IS and put it into a management context which is implicit in most IS research but is often overlooked in the debates on the nature of academic IS research. It is proposed that a multidisciplinary approach to IS research is the most appropriate way of conceptualizing IS problems, academic research, and business practice, and that the integrating themes arise from the terms 'information' and 'systems' rather than from the technology. A multidisciplinary view of IS has different implications for identifying appropriate research problems, research design, publication and dissemination, and for the development of professional bodies than the IT artifact philosophy. It has some similarities to the systems model proposed by Alter and takes this concept further to stress that the IS research field can make a claim not only to systems but to much broader core disciplines in management because of the ubiquitous nature of not only IT, but also because of the central role that information plays in the co-ordination of economic activity in business enterprises. To support the argument, examples of historical IS research are outlined and the importance of earlier multidisciplinary research areas is described, particularly the antecedents of OR research practice in the UK. Finally some tentative ideas on future IS research and practice are outlined.

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