Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Design science research (DSR) has gained popularity with doctoral students. In the information systems (IS) discipline, DSR is distinctive in that it creates knowledge through the design of novel or innovative artifacts and analyzes the artifacts’ use or performance. We present an analysis of 40 DSR doctoral theses completed in Australia between 2006-2017. Our purpose is to understand how DSR is applied by the IS community, and one critical source of information is the work of doctoral candidates. How candidates are guided by the literature, the artifacts produced, and their evaluation of the artifacts provide a window into this understanding. We selected the theses from the Australian national repository and analyzed their content. The findings suggest: (1) DSR is evolving and maturing in this cohort, but most candidates fail to enunciate and understand the underlying philosophy of their research approach; (2) the use of relevant guidance is still developing; and (3) the capacity of candidates to theorize about their work remains a challenge, possibly due to problems of scoping DSR projects and ensuing time constraints. In spite of their recognition and appreciation of the need for evaluating DSR artifacts, it is questionable whether doctoral candidates understand that the designs also require evaluation. As in many other areas of IS research, nomenclature in DSR remains problematic and the whole IS community should aim to create better consistency in this regard. This paper contributes toward our understanding of the challenges and advantages of DSR as a research approach for postgraduate studies and offers recommendations to the DSR community.