Context May Be King, but Generalizability Is the Emperor!
Journal of Information Technology, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 257–264, DOI: 10.1057/s41265-016-0005-7, September 2016
12 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2016 Last revised: 15 Nov 2016
Date Written: September 1, 2016
The relative importance of context and generalizability (or particularism and universalism) has long been debated in scientific research. Recently, Davison and Martinsons raised valid concerns about the possibility of false universalism in IS research, discussed its negative consequences, and made a call for explicitly including particularism in research design and reporting. In this commentary, we generally agree with the notion that context should matter more in IS research; yet, the importance of generalizability in research should not be downplayed. Specifically, we posit that generalizability should be given higher position in the scientific process and be the ultimate goal for researchers. Still, researchers need to fully understand the research context, which, in combination and replication, can help to cautiously make generalizable knowledge claims. Therefore, we characterize the relationship between context and generalizability as that of a “King” (as an analogy of the local role of context) versus the “Emperor” (as an analogy of the global role of generalizability).
Keywords: Generalizability, Universalism, Particularism, Context, IS research
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