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Abstract

Why theory, what does theory add to human inquiry? There have been literately hundreds of attempts to explain the word ‘theory’, many of which are either incomprehensible or in conflict with each other. It would be easy for a new researcher to fail to appreciate the centrality of theory in good quality relevant research. Is it time to stop defining what theory is and focus more on what it does for research? This paper revisits the numerous and conflicting definitions of ‘theory’ to search for a plain English statement of why relevant and convincing research needs theory. An explanation is suggested which is then used to review an unusual research report. Calls for more or improved theories in IS seem misguided until we are clear of the role of theory in research.

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