Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application (JITTA)


This paper shows how the philosophy of social science known as Critical Realism (CR) can inform information systems (IS) research. CR is particularly helpful for IS research where natural science methods (e.g. controlled experiments) are difficult to apply such as in organizational settings, involving IS, where complex interactions occur and outcomes are not predictable. CR shows how an open systems ontology of social reality better explains the nature of causation in complex social interactions and accounts for the fact that outcomes are not predictable. A key advantage of CR is its adoption of an objective ontology (a reality independent of the researcher) while acknowledging the socially constructed nature of knowledge (a subjective epistemology) that can, nevertheless, be assessed for validity thus avoiding the problem of relativism. CR has been used in sociology, economics, organization and management studies, marketing studies, geography, and legal studies but not much in IS research. The second part of the paper illustrates the application of CR principles in an excerpt from case study research to explain the outcomes of the interaction between organizational context and management interventions to develop and implement strategic IS plans.