This paper reports results from a field study of cross-disciplinary design researchers in information systems, software engineering, human-computer interaction, and computer-supported cooperative work. The purpose of the study was to explore how these different disciplines conceptualize and conduct design-as-research. The focus in this paper is on how theories are used in a design research project to motivate and inform the particulars of designed artifacts and design methods. Our objective was to better understand how elements of a theory are translated into design action, and how theoretical propositions are translated and then realized in designed artifacts. The results reveal a broad diversity in the processes through which theories are translated into working artifacts. The paper contributes to our understanding of design research in information systems by providing empirical support for existing constructs and frameworks, identifying some new approaches to translating theoretical concepts into research designs, and suggesting ways in which action and artifact-oriented research can more effectively contribute to a cumulative and progressive science of design.