Journal of the Association for Information Systems


In this paper, we review the premises and practice of the historical method in order to understand how it can be applied to studying information systems (IS) related phenomena. We first examine the philosophical and methodological foundations of the method. For this purpose, we introduce a four-tiered research framework, which consists of (1) the paradigmatic or meta-theoretic assumptions that guide historical research, (2) pragmatism as an overarching approach or a way of doing historical research, (3) the historical method as the guiding principles for producing history, and (4) a review of some central techniques IS historians have applied in historical research. For point four, we review how McKenney et al. (1997) and Porra et al. (2005, 2006) applied Mason et al.’s (1997ab) seven steps of doing IS history. Finally, we compare the historical method with other methods applied in the IS field today: We compare the historical method with the longitudinal case study, case study, field study, and ethnography.