Affiliated Organization

Case Western Reserve University, USA


Developing explanations of observed phenomenon is one of the major functions of research in Information Systems (IS). But what is an explanation? What types of explanation can IS research provide and what do they mean? The objectives of this research are to develop a shared language, to increase understanding of the meaning of research results and to stimulate discussion of explanation in Information Systems research. Four years of articles published in two top-ranked IS journals over a period of ten years were sampled based on four explanation types defined in modern philosophy: covering-law, statistical-relevance, pragmatic and functional. Explanation types, sub classifications ontologies and research methods were classified and the relationships between these characteristics were examined. Results reveal opportunities for studying Information Systems beyond a single explanation, towards the use of a rich set of explanation types to fully describe phenomena.