Affiliated Organization

AIM, France


This article investigates how Information Systems researchers apply institutional theoretical frameworks. We include theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects to explore modalities of use. After an overview of institutional concepts, we carry out a thematic analysis of journal papers on IS and institutional theory indexed in EBSCO and ABI databases from 1999 to 2009. This consists of descriptive, thematic coding and cluster analysis of this textual database. On the basis of thematic coding and cluster analysis, our findings suggest three groups of publications which represent different methodological approaches and empirical foci: descriptive exploratory approaches, generalizing approaches, and sociological approaches. We suggest that these three groups represent possible patterns of the use of meta social theories in IS research, reflecting a search for disciplinary legitimacy. This helps us analyze papers according to how they use and apply theories. We identify the organizing vision and the regulatory approach as two institutionalist intermediary concepts developed by IS researchers. Furthermore, we find that institutional theoretical frameworks have been used in direct, intermediary or combined conceptualizations. As a conclusion, we make suggestions to blend different conceptualizations, methodologies and empirical foci to enrich the use of institutionalist theories in IS empirical research. A comparison with the use of, for instance, structuration theory in IS research would also further insights into how researchers apply meta theories and may help develop IS theorization further.