Journal of the Association for Information Systems


In this paper we consider what it means to be an informed IS researcher by focusing attention on theory adaptation in IS research. The basic question we seek to address is: "When one borrows theory from another discipline, what are the issues that one must consider?" After examining the role of theory in IS research, we focus on escalation theory applied to IS projects as an example. In doing so, we seek to generate increased awareness of the issues that one might consider when adapting theories from other domains to research in our field. This increased awareness may then translate to a more informed use of theories in IS. Following a self-reflexive tale of how and why escalation theory was adopted to IS research, we offer four recommendations for theory adaptation: (1) consider the fit between selected theory and phenomenon of interest, (2) consider the theory’s historical context, (3) consider how the theory impacts the choice of research method, and (4) consider the contribution of theorizing to cumulative theory.