Applying and Theorizing Institutional Frameworks in IS Research: A Systematic Analysis from 1999 to 2009
Information Technology & People, vol 27, Iss 4, Forthcoming.
Posted: 21 Mar 2014
Date Written: December 19, 2014
This article investigates how Information Systems researchers apply institutional theoretical frameworks. Our aim is to explore the operationalization of meta-theoretical frameworks for empirical research which can often present difficulties in IS research. 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 empirical journal papers on IS and institutional theory indexed in databases from 1999 to 2009. This consists of descriptive, thematic coding and cluster analysis of this textual database; this combined qualitative and quantitative method offers a unique way of analyzing how operationalization is carried out. 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. We also confirm the dynamism of the IS institutional research stream, as evidenced by the increase in number of articles between 1999 and 2009, and identify a maturation process of the IS field in investigating a social theory. 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.
Keywords: institutions; neo-institutionalism; information systems
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