As Information Systems (IS) research increasingly acknowledges the importance of non-positivist approaches, the case for a plurality of theories to guide qualitative studies has generally been quite well accepted on philosophical grounds. In this paper, we argue the need for a better leverage of theoretical pluralism in qualitative IS research. Specifically, we note that greater research insights may be obtained by considering the complementarity of various theoretical perspectives with respect to a specific IS phenomenon. Indeed, we suggest that when such complementary perspectives are purposefully employed in a portfolio of separate studies over time, they may collectively help to shed new light on complex IS phenomena. In this study, we use the research example of IS professionals’ identity and the ethnography method to demonstrate the complementarity of three theoretical perspectives: Symbolic Interactionism’s “micro analysis of social interactions”, Critical Social Theory’s emphasis on the “macro contextualisation of human action”, as well as Adaptive Structuration Theory’s “explicit focus on technology”. Individually, each perspective boasts a unique angle from which a certain complex IS phenomenon can be investigated; when purposefully employed in different studies over time, they may collectively and synergistically shed new light on the phenomenon in question. By highlighting the possible leverage of theoretical pluralism in such a complementary manner, this study may thus have valuable implications for qualitative IS research.
Siregar, Jo-Ann and Tan, Michael T.K., "Leveraging Theoretical Pluralism in Qualitative IS Research: THe Example of IS Professionals' Identity as a Complex Phenomenon" (2004). ECIS 2004 Proceedings. 171.