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

Fox School of Business Research Paper No. 16-032

12 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2016 Last revised: 15 Nov 2016

See all articles by Aaron Cheng

Aaron Cheng

Temple University - Department of Management Information Systems

Angelika Dimoka

Temple University - Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management; Center for Neural Decision Making, Temple University

Paul A. Pavlou

Temple University - Department of Management Information Systems; Temple University - Department of Strategic Management

Date Written: September 1, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Cheng, Zhi (Aaron) and Dimoka, Angelika and Pavlou, Paul A., Context May Be King, but Generalizability Is the Emperor! (September 1, 2016). Journal of Information Technology, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 257–264, DOI: 10.1057/s41265-016-0005-7, September 2016; Fox School of Business Research Paper No. 16-032. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2862059

Zhi (Aaron) Cheng (Contact Author)

Temple University - Department of Management Information Systems

1810 N. 13th Street
Floor 2
Philadelphia, PA 19128
United States

Angelika Dimoka

Temple University - Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Center for Neural Decision Making, Temple University ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.fox.temple.edu/minisites/neural/index.html

Paul A. Pavlou

Temple University - Department of Management Information Systems ( email )

1810 N. 13th Street
Floor 2
Philadelphia, PA 19128
United States

Temple University - Department of Strategic Management ( email )

Fox School of Business and Management
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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