Though there have been extended deliberations for making information systems (IS) research more relevant1 and useful for IS executives, to our knowledge, there has been no empirical study which examines the extent of relevance in the current IS research. In this chapter, we analyze the topical relevance of 388 published academic articles in the three top IS journals: MIS Quarterly (MISQ), Information Systems Research (ISR), and Journal of Management Information Systems (JMIS), for a 5 year period from 2000-2004. We do this by examining their fit with the key issues for information technology (IT) executives identified by the latest Society for Information Management (SIM) survey. Based on our results, we make recommendations for making IS research more meaningful for practitioners.
The importance of relevance of IS research has been highlighted by a number of scholars. For example, Benbasat and Zmud (1999) quoting from the title of a 1990 Business Week article highlighted that useful research should not be “in the ivory tower, fuzzy, irrelevant and pretentious” (p. 3) rather it should be relevant for practitioners. In a similar vein, there has been a growing debate about crisis in the IS discipline. Scholars have identified various ways of resolving this crisis (Agarwal & Lucas, 2005; Benbasat & Zmud, 2003; Hirschheim & Klein, 2003; Lucas, 1999; Markus, 1999). Some of them have recommended the need for according greater sociopolitical and cognitive legitimacy by addressing the needs of all stakeholders of IS research (Aldrich, 1999). As IS professionals form a major part of the IS discipline stakeholders, an important way in which the IS discipline can address their needs is by making research more useful and relevant for them (Agarwal & Lucas, 2005; Benbasat & Zmud, 2003).
Scholars like Davenport and Markus (1999) and Benbasat and Zmud (1999) view the goal of “research relevance” as critical to the long term survival and success of the field. They suggested that IS researchers can make their studies more relevant by choosing research topics which are considered to be important by practitioners. Three of the four dimensions of relevance identified by Benbasat and Zmud (1999) pertain to the content of articles (interesting, applicable, and current) as shown in Table 1.Table 1.
Dimensions of research relevance (Benbasat & Zmud, 1999)
|Category||Dimensions of Relevance||Description|
|Content||Interesting||Does IS research address the problems or challenges that are of concern to IS professionals?|
|Applicable||Does IS research produce the knowledge and offer prescriptions that can be utilized by practitioners?|
|Current||Does IS research focus on the current technologies and business issues?|
|Style||Accessible||Are IS research articles able to be understood (in terms of tone, style, structure, and semantics) by IS professionals?|
Key Terms in this Chapter
Discipline Stakeholders: Discipline stakeholders are all the logical segments of population who are impacted by and also impact the research in a particular discipline, for example, the stakeholders in IS discipline are IS and non IS academics, students, and industry and business practitioners.
Research Rigor: There are two dimensions of rigor in research. Methodological rigor implies following established methodological procedures and philosophical rigor signifies incorporating theoretical basis into research. For a piece of research to be justified as an academic piece it must have substantial rigor on both these dimensions.
Research Relevance: Research in applied fields like IS has to be responsive to the needs of business and industry to make it useful and practicable for them. There are four dimensions of relevance in research which deal with the content and style of research articles. For an article to be relevant it must not only be interesting, applicable and current to the needs of the practitioners but should also be written in an accessible and simple style.
Journal Relevance Coefficient (JRC): JRC is a measure developed in the current study which can be used to ascertain the extent of topical relevance addressed to by the journals.
Information Systems (IS) Practitioners: IS practitioners are the professionals involved with planning and implementing IT resources for their organizations which includes chief information officers (CIOs), IT managers, and other professionals with similar job descriptions.
SIM Survey: Society for Information Management (SIM) conducts surveys to assess the needs of the IT practitioners and identifies current areas and topics of concern for the IT executives. Last such survey was done in 2003, the findings of which are available in Luftman and McLean (2004) .
Topi cal Relevance: Topical relevance means that the research topic is useful for the practitioners. This implies that the topic is interesting, applicable, and current to the needs of business and industry.