Communications of the Association for Information Systems

Article Title

The IS Identity Crisis


Defining the central identity of the information systems (IS) field is a subject of ongoing concern and debate among IS researchers. Published empirical studies to date have focused on restricted sets of IS-related journal publications spread across relatively short time periods. This paper offers a broader review of the central identity of the IS field, using three dimensions proposed by Albert and Whetten [1985]: central character (i.e., what topics do IS scholars research?); temporal continuity (i.e., to what extent has the identity of the IS field remained static over time?); and distinctiveness (i.e., how unique is research published in IS vs. non-IS research journals?). The first two dimensions are examined using a dataset containing 6,466 journal citations drawn from seven leading IS journals over a 32-year period, and the third is evaluated by comparing results from these seven journals with research published in 15 leading non-IS business journals over the same time period. Results suggest that articles published in leading IS journals do share a strong central character that is distinct from research published in non-IS journals, and yet an identity that has continually shifted over time. This study contributes to the literature by providing an empirically supported review of who we are, how we are different, and some thoughts about where we may be going as a discipline.