“Globalization of business highlights the need to understand the management of organizations that span different nations and cultures” (Srite et al., 2003, p. 31). In these multinational and transcultural organizations, there is a growing call for utilizing information technology (IT) to achieve efficiencies, coordination, and communication. However, cultural differences between countries may have an impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of IT deployment. Despite its importance, the effect of cultural factors has received limited attention from information systems’ (IS) researchers. In a review of cross-cultural research specifically focused on the MIS area (Evaristo, Karahanna, & Srite, 2000), a very limited number of studies were found that could be classi- fied as cross-cultural. Additionally, even though many of the studies found provided useful insights, raised interesting questions, and generally contributed toward the advancement of the state of the art in its field, with few exceptions, no study specifically addressed equivalency issues central to measurement in cross-cultural research. It is this methodological issue of equivalency that is the focus of this article.
Methodological considerations are of the utmost importance to cross-cultural studies, because valid comparisons require cross-culturally equivalent research instruments, data collection procedures, research sites, and respondents. Ensuring equivalency is an essential element of cross-cultural studies and is necessary to avoid confounds and contaminating effects of various extraneous elements.
Cross-cultural research has some unique methodological idiosyncrasies that are not pertinent to intracultural research. One characteristic that typifies cross-cultural studies is their comparative nature, i.e., they involve a comparison across two or more separate cultures on a focal phenomenon. Any observed differences across cultures give rise to many alternative explanations. Particularly when results are different than expected (e.g., no statistical significance, factor analysis items do not load as expected, or reliability assessment is low), researchers may question whether results are true differences due to culture or merely measurement artifacts (Mullen, 1995).
Methodological considerations in carrying out cross-cultural research attempt to rule out alternative explanations for these differences and enhance the interpretability of results (van de Vijver & Leung, 1997). Clearly, the choice and appropriateness of the methodology can make a difference in any research endeavor. In cross-cultural research, however, one could go to the extreme of classifying this as one of the most critical decisions. In this section, we briefly review such cross-cultural methodological considerations. Specifically, this section will address equivalence (Hui & Triandis, 1985; Poortinga, 1989; Mullen, 1995) and bias (Poortinga & van de Vijver, 1987; van de Vijver & Leung, 1997; van de Vijver & Poortinga, 1997) as key methodological concerns inherent in cross-cultural research. Then, sampling, wording, and translation are discussed as important means of overcoming some identified biases.