UNDERSTANDINGS IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS RESEARCH

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INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH MOTIVATION

“…So many books are produced to meet an identified market opportunity rather than written because an argument presses to be expounded.” Peter Checkland, 1999. Much research has been done to address a market-related need quickly, to the detriment of the soundness and quality of the knowledge generated from such an endeavour. Although many market research projects are carried out within specific paradigms it is rare to find research projects that are intended to improve on or establish new paradigms in specific fields. Instead, the results from market-driven research usually create loopholes in their application areas, rather than eliminating these. This is because the grounding paradigms have been overtaken by new market requirements or societal changes. Market-driven results are often portrayed as comprehensive models, frameworks, architectures or as tangible artefacts but the most overarching problem is their lack of comprehensiveness. Comprehensive information system (IS) products are fundamentally based on the generally accepted design principles of systems engineering (Gerber, 2006).

The Evolutionary Software Paradigm

Unlike software artefacts that are static, organizations are dynamic and always in a continuous state of change (Kawalek & Leonard, 1996). This posits software products at a difficult position to represent the true state of an organization. Legacy systems are, because of these reasons, difficult to adapt and maintain. Kawalek and Leonard (1996) and Meso and Jain (2006) argued that software products should be innovative, adaptive and replicable. Naturally change is endemic in organisations; therefore new methods of developing software products that exhibit these characteristics should be formulated. For this reason, Kawalek and Leonard (1996:189) advocated for development methods and practices that produce “instantly adaptable software that is able to support radically changing demands on a series of fast developing platforms and integrating with a series of end user developments”.

Gap in the Field of Study

In industrial and academic research, as new problems arise, researchers have to face the challenge of finding solutions to these problems. As Basden (2001) explains, the problems that limit the usability of information systems and the lack of return on investment from these investments should be tracked back to the approaches, methods and processes that are used at the time the “artefact” is developed. This artefact is the software product.

The Software Development Process

Gonzalez-Perez and Henderson-Sellers (2006) characterize the software development process as a complex activity in which people, technologies and their organizations are participants. The effects of these participants on the software development process and the use of the software development products are discussed in Section 4.6.3: Human Activity Systems. In addition, there are various types of stakeholders in software development, whose diversity contributes greatly to the complexity and difficulty of developing software products. To add to the stakeholder diversity, there is no common vocabulary or world view that can be understood and used by all participants in the development process. The requirement of such a vocabulary is discussed in Sections
4.8.4, 4.9 and 5.7 of this thesis.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH MOTIVATION
1.0 Introduction
1.1 Research Motivation
1.1.1 Communication Requirements in Software Development
1.2 The Research Interest
1.2.1 Gap in the Field of Study
1.2.1.1 The Software Development Process
1.2.1.2 Software Development and Ontologies
1.3 Research Methodology
1.3.1 GTM
1.4 Generic Research Propositions
1.5 Preliminary Research Questions
1.5.1 Main Research Question
1.5.2 Secondary Research Questions
1.5.2.1 The ‘What is?’ type of questions.
1.5.2.2 Why ontology?
1.5.2.3 The “How should?” And “How does?” types of questions
1.5.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study
1.5.3.1 Aims of the Study
1.5.3.2 Objectives of the Study
1.6 Research Scope and Delimitation
1.6.1 What this Research Study is Not
1.7 Contribution of Research to the Body of Knowledge
1.8 Structure of the Thesis
1.9 How to Read this Thesis
1.10 Summary
CHAPTER TWO UNDERSTANDINGS IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS RESEARCH
2.0 Introduction
2.1 What is theory?
2.1.1 General Types of Theory
2.2 Strategies for Conducting Research
2.3 Types of Research in Information Systems
2.3.1 Theoretical Research
2.3.2 Empirical Research
2.4 Research Tasks in Information Systems
2.4.1 Constructive Research Task
2.4.2 Nomothetic Research Task
2.4.2.1 Deductive Theory
2.4.3 Ideographic Research Task
2.5 Sociological Paradigms Applied to Information Systems
2.5.1 The Functionalist Paradigm
2.5.2 The Interpretive Paradigm
2.5.3 The Radical Structuralist Paradigm
2.5.4 The Neo-Humanist Paradigm
2.6 Philosophical Groundings in Information Systems Research
2.6.1 Ontological Grounding to Information Systems Research
2.6.1.1 Objectivism
2.6.1.2 Constructionism (Constructivism)
2.6.2 Epistemological Grounding to Information Systems Research
2.6.2.1 Positivism versus Anti-Positivism
2.6.3 The Humanistic Grounding in Information Systems Research
2.7 Information Systems Research Paradigms
2.7.1 Quantitative Research Paradigm
2.7.2 Qualitative Research Paradigm
2.8 Approaches to Information Systems Research
2.8.1 The Positivist Stance
2.8.2 The Interpretive Stance
2.8.3 The Critical Realism Stance
2.9 The Nature of the Research Problem
2.9.1 Ontological Diagnosis
2.9.2 Epistemological Diagnosis
2.9.3 Humanist Diagnosis
2.9.4 Methodological Stance
2.10 Summary
CHAPTER THREE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research and Methodological Approach
3.2.1 Research Approach
3.2.2 Methodological Approach
3.2.2.1 Qualitative Research Methods
3.3 Research Method Used in this Study
3.3.1 GTM
3.3.2 The Research Design
3.3.2.1 Requirements for Sound Application of GTM
3.3.2.2 Problem Statement and Use of Research Questions
3.3.2.3 Use of Literature
3.3.3 Data Acquisition Methods
CHAPTER FOUR SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES, INFORMATION SYSTEMS AND ORGANIZATIONS
4.0 Introduction
4.1 The Nature of Organizational Systems
4.1.1 The Complex Nature of Organizational Systems
4.1.2 Culture in Organizations
4.1.3 The Role of Concepts in Information Systems Development (ISD)
4.1.4 Context in Information Systems
4.2 The Practice of Software Engineering
4.2.1 The Software Development Problem
4.3 Software Product Development Practices
4.3.1 Communication in Software Development
4. 3.2 Software Engineering Reference Model
4.4 The Need for a Conceptual Schema
4.5 The Mechanistic Nature of Information Systems
4.5.1 Mechanistic Systems, Systematicity and System-Formation
4.5.1.1 Romanticism
4.5.2 Transition to Romantic Systems
4.6 Activity Theory, Actor-Network Theory and Theory of Organized Action
4.6.1 Activity Theory
4.6.2 The Social Network Aspect of Activity Systems
4.6.3 Human Activity Systems (HAS)
4.6.4 Theory of Organized Activity (TOA).
4.7 The Approach versus Methodology Debate
4.8 Software Development Approaches
4.8.1 Structured Development Approach
4.8.2 Object-Oriented Approach (OOA)
4.8.3 Agile Approaches
4.8.4 Goals of a Software Development Approach
4.9 Model Requirements for a Romantic Software Product
4.10 Software Development Issues
4.11 Summary
CHAPTER FIVE HISTORY AND NATURE OF ONTOLOGY
5.0 Introduction
5.1 What is Ontology? A Brief Description
5.2 Background to Ontology Applications
5.3 Other Views of Ontology
5.4 Ontology Perspectives
5.4.1 Architectural Characteristics of Ontology
5.5 The Concept of Conceptualization
5.6 Varieties of Ontology
5.6.1 Domain Ontologies
5.6.2 Method Ontologies
5.6.3 Status Ontologies
5.6.4 Intentional Ontologies
5.6.5 Social Ontologies
5.6.6 Process Ontologies
5.7 Possible Ontology Uses in Software Development
5.7.1 Ontologies and Communication
5.7.2 Ontologies in Modelling
5.7.3 Ontologies in Distributed Non-homogeneous Database Systems
5.7.4 Ontologies in Systems Integration
5.7.5 Ontologies and Software Products Reusability
5.7.6 The role of ontologies in a Romantic Information System
5.8 Ontology-Driven Software Development Architecture
5.8.1 The Knowledge Base Repository
5.8.2 The Designer Engine
5.8.3 The Reasoner
5.9 The Field of Semiotics and Ontology
5.9.1 Syntactics
5.9.2 Semantics
5.9.3 Pragmatics
5.9.4 Social Aspect (Context)
5.10 Towards a Working Definition of Ontology
5.11 Summary
CHAPTER SIX DATA ANALYSIS AND THE ONTOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK
6.0 Introduction
6.1 Profile of Interview Respondents
6.1.1 Thematic Areas Considered During Data Gathering
6.1.2 Data Sampling and Preparation
6.2 Components of the Data Analysis Tool Atlas.Ti
6.3 GTM Coding Issues
6.4 A Practitioner’s Classification of Software Development Aspects
6.5 Propositions and Research Questions Revisited
6.5.1 Refinement of Propositions
6.5.1.1 The Software Development World View
6.5.1.2 The Software Development Paradigm
6.5.1.3 The Software Development Approach
6.5.1.4 The Software Development Method
6.5.1.5 Adaptive and Evolving Software Development
6.5.1.6 The Software Development Environment
6.5.2 Refined Research Questions
6.6 GTM Theoretical Sampling and Saturation
6.6.1 Propositions PA and PB Story Lines
6.6.2 Proposition PB Story Line
6.6.3 Proposition PC Story Line
6.6.4 Proposition PD Story Line
6.6.5 Proposition PE Story Line
6.7 The Double-Mapping Principle Revisited
6.8 A Requirements Framework for a Software Development Approach-The What Part.
6.9 The Ontology-Driven Software Development Framework–The How Part
6.10 An Ontology-Driven Software Development Approach-The How Should Part.
6.11 Discussions
6.12 Summary
CHAPTER SEVEN RESEARCH EVALUATION, CONCLUDING STATEMENTS AND FUTURE WORK
7.0 Introduction
7.1 Research Quality Considerations
7.2 Contribution to the Field of Software Development
7.3 Evaluation of the Study’s Contribution to the Body of Knowledge
7.3.1 Evaluation of the Generated Theory
7.3.2 Evaluation
7.4 Recommendations, Future Work and Limitations
7.5 Conclusion
BIBLIOGRAPHY

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