Paper Title: A set of principles for conducting Critical Research in Information Systems.

Authors: Michael D. Myers, Heinz K. Klein

Editor: MIS Quarterly Vol. 35 No. 1/March 2011

Summary of Content of Paper:

The summary will lack some details in order to be as condensed as possible without loosing the core meaning and intellectual suggestions to the reader.

The purpose of this summary is to persuade the reader to read the original paper.

I consider the main points of the paper the following:

  • Sociology is a crucial discipline for critical research.
  • The human component of Information Systems is primary.
  • Knowledge is conveyed through social interaction.
  • The researcher interacts with the object under examination in a way that a mutual influence is formed, the object studied becomes a subject, its behaviour will be modified temporarily or permanently by the investigation before the end of the research.
  • The classification scheme chosen is based on three paradigms: positivist, interpretative and critical. The classification allows to make useful comparisons that help to understand the logic in which critical research is based.
  • Literature is based on three authors: Habermas, Bordieu, Foucault. They focus respectively on concepts, ethnography, history.
  • Critical research proceeding is summarized by three elements. Insight: a deep understanding of the current situation, in particular the social and cultural aspects. Critique: discover the rules that explain and justify the findings of the previous element. Transformation: recommendations, suggestions, advices on possible changes.
  • The principles that guide the critical research are different depending on the element. The first element, insight, follow the principle of interpretative research. These are explained in the paper of the same authors, Myers and Klein, titled: “A set of principles for conducting and evaluating interpretative field studies in Information Systems”, written in 1999. The paper identifies seven principles: Hermeneutic Circle, Contextualization, Interaction between researchers and subjects, Abstraction and Generalization, Dialogical Reasoning, Multiple Interpretations, Suspicion. Critique and Transformation are concerned with the following principles: use of core concepts from critical social theorists, taking a value position, revealing and challenging prevailing beliefs and social practices, individual emancipation, improvements in society, improvements in social theories.
  • The paper discusses the similarities and differences among paradigms. Some views agrees that similarities exist in critical and interpretative paradigms, everybody seems to agree that Critical Research and Positivist Research are different. The authors believe that Critical Research is distinct from other researches. The reason of such distinction lies on theoretical bases, in particular the Value Position which is mandatory in Critical Research. The element of Transformation is peculiar. Moreover the authors insist on the logical coherence of Critical Research.
  • This rational drives to the second part of the conclusions, the added value of Critical Research. The main assumption explains that fundamental criticism naturally extends the scope of Information Systems research from the organization level to the societal level because many beliefs and norms are originated by social institutions. The Value Position is considerated an added value because offers alternatives. Another added value is the Transformation when needed interventions can be supported by Critical Research. Eventually the last added value is represented by the possible active participation of the subject under analysis, this can add important meanings to data interpretation.

A: Quality of the Research

Item My comments
1. Is the research question or objective clearly stated? The presentation, before the introduction, makes clear that the purpose of the paper is to propose a set of principles for the conduct of critical research in information systems.
2. Is the research question interesting and important? It is definitively interesting and important. In certain countries, where development did not reach yet an acceptable level, could be extremely difficult to analyse local information systems without proper guidance.
3. Is the work original? I suppose it is. Investigation about the subject, in different channels, results in few documents compared to investigation on similar matters.
4. Is the background research clear and relevant? Several paragraphs are offering an extensive view on the background: Defining Critical Research, A Review of the IS Research Literature, Possible Theoretical Foundations for

Critical Research, Three Major Critical Research Stream. By reading them the reader is prepared to understand the successive paragraphs. The first six points of the above summary are based on the background.

5. Are there any ethical problems? Two possible ethical problems arise from the paper: Interaction with the subject could lead to an excessive influence from the researcher making the research less honest and independent from personal views. The Position Value could be influenced by the political or religious beliefs of the researcher leading to transformations that are based on beliefs and not on real needs.


B: The Research Method

Item My comments
Summarise the research method The paragraph titled “Organization of this Paper” explains the method: literature review, conceptualization, concept application. In short can be summarized as concept study.
Does the research method seem appropriate for the research question? The research question is intellectual, its answer is intellectual with consequences in the real life therefore a concept study seems to be appropriate.
Are the methods adequately described? The description is very concise, but the method is evident in the whole paper, describes the materials used in the study, explain how the materials were prepared for the study. The description is adequate.
Were the analyses done correctly? The path followed by the paper seems to be exhaustive: definition of the concept, review of literature about the concept, theoretical analysis, synthesis. On my opinion analyses were done correctly.
Are the conclusions supported by the data? The paper is conceptual, it is based on information more than raw data. Existing literature is the main support to the paper. The answer to this question depends on the interpretation of the reference documents. On my opinion the interpretation of the sources that support the paper is convincing.


C: Quality of Presentation

Item My comments
Is the work well presented? Big title, author names clearly readable, abstract and keywords. The main text in two columns newspaper style. I think is well presented.
Is the paper well structured? The paragraph scheme guides the reader in a comfortable way. Concepts and analyses are written in the right order without mixing them. The paper is well structured.
Are symbols, terms, and concepts adequately defined? The paper does not use graphic symbols, and almost no figures of speech. Terms require a prior knowledge, the paper is not directed to a general audience, but to competent people. The concepts under study are adequately defined.
Would additional tables, figures help to clarify the work? On the contrary, I think that additional tables or figures could make the paper less clear.


D: Additional Notes

Item My comments
Use this section to record additional notes on the paper. In particular you should identify any links to other topics and papers from the module This paper requires a prior reading of the paper titled: “A set of principles for conducting and evaluating interpretative field studies in Information Systems” by the same authors. It is important for two reasons: interpretative field studies concepts are crucial for understanding critical research, the principles explained in that paper are applied also in this paper.