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Abstract

Effective application of theory is critical to the development of new knowledge in Information Systems (IS) research. However, theory foundations of IS research are understudied. Using Complex Network Analysis, we analyze theory usage in IS research published in two premier journals (MIS Quarterly and Information Systems Research) from 1998 to 2006. Four principal findings emerge from our analysis. First, in contrast with prior studies which found a lack of dominant theories at an aggregate level, we find stronger dominance of theory usage within individual streams of IS research. Second, IS research draws from diverse set of disciplines, with Psychology emerging as a consistently dominant source of theories for IS during our study period. Moreover, theories originating in IS were found to be widely used in two streams of research (‘IS development’ and ‘IT and Individuals’ streams) and more sparingly used in other streams. Third, IS research tends to form clusters of theory usage, with little crossover across clusters. Moreover, streams of IS research constitute distinct clusters of theory usage. Finally, theories originating from Economics, Strategy and Organization Science tend to be used together, whereas those originating from Psychology, Sociology and IS tend to be used together. Taken together, our results contribute to scholarly understanding of theory foundations of IS research and illustrate methodological innovations in the study of theory use by employing Complex Network Analysis.

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