Over the years, interpretivism has been gradually gaining ground in Information Systems (IS) research. At the heart of this interpretivist movement is a belief in theoretical and methodological pluralism. In this study, we argue the need for a better leverage of methodological pluralism in interpretive IS research. Specifically, we note that greater research insights may be obtained by considering the complementarity of various strategies of inquiry (such as ethnography, grounded theory, case study and action research) with respect to a specific IS phenomenon. Indeed, we suggest that when complementary strategies of inquiry are purposefully employed in a portfolio of separate studies over time, they may collectively help to shed new light on complex IS phenomena. A good example of such phenomena is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). While ERP implementations in the industry reached their peak in the late 1990s, research in this area is still in a stage of infancy. In this study, we use this ERP phenomenon and the symbolic interactionism theoretical perspective to demonstrate the complementarity of three strategies of inquiry: the “descriptive strengths” of ethnography, the “analytical edge” of grounded theory and the “practical contribution” of participatory action research Individually, each strategy of inquiry boasts a unique platform from which a certain complex IS phenomenon (such as ERP implementations) can be investigated; when purposefully employed in different studies over time, they may help to collectively and synergistically shed new light on the phenomenon in question. By highlighting the possible leverage of methodological pluralism in such a complementary manner, this study may thus have valuable implications for interpretive IS research.
Ho, Xiu-Xian and Tan, Michael T.K., "Leveraging Methodological Pluralism in Interpretive IS Research: The Example of ERP as a Complex Phenomenon" (2004). ECIS 2004 Proceedings. 60.