Research Methodologies, Innovations and Philosophies in Software Systems Engineering and Information Systems

Research Methodologies, Innovations and Philosophies in Software Systems Engineering and Information Systems

Manuel Mora (Autonomous University of Aguascalientes (UAA), Mexico), Ovsei Gelman (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico), Annette L. Steenkamp (Lawrence Technological University, USA) and Mahesh Raisinghani (University of Dallas, USA)
Indexed In: SCOPUS
Release Date: February, 2012|Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 512
ISBN13: 9781466601796|ISBN10: 1466601795|EISBN13: 9781466601802|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0179-6


Philosophical paradigms, theoretical frameworks, and methodologies make up the answering and problem solving systems that define current research approaches. While there are multiple research method books, the subject lacks an update and integrated source of reference for graduate courses.

Research Methodologies, Innovations and Philosophies in Software Systems Engineering and Information Systems aims to advance scientific knowledge on research approaches used in systems engineering, software engineering, and information systems and to update and integrate disperse and valuable knowledge on research approaches. This aims to be a collection of knowledge for PhD students, research-oriented faculty, and instructors of graduate courses.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Critical Realism
  • Formal Ontologies
  • Interpretative Information Systems Research
  • Organizational Knowledge
  • Process Theory
  • Relevance in Information Systems Research
  • Semantic Map
  • Software Engineering Research
  • Software Process Research
  • Structural Equation Modeling

Reviews and Testimonials

We believe that the integrative and systemic approach - used in this book with its interdisciplinary and multi-methodological research chapters - will provide an integrated source of high-quality material with rigor and relevance on research approaches for researchers in the highly interrelated disciplines of Software Systems Engineering and Information Systems.

– Manuel Mora, Autonomous University of Aguascalientes (UAA), Mexico; Ovsei Gelman, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico; Annette L. Steenkamp, Lawrence Technological University, USA; and Mahesh Raisinghani, University of Dallas, USA

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

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Knowledge of research methodologies is critical for advancing our scientific knowledge (Popper, 2002; Bhaskar, 2008). In particular, given the increasing complexity and interaction of Systems Engineering, Software Engineering (Boehm, 2000, 2006) and Information Systems disciplines (Mora et al. 2008), and the myriad of classic research methodologies and innovative hybrid or multi-methodological approaches (Glass et al. 2004; Mingers, 2000; 2001; Valerdi & Davidz, 2009), we consider that research faculty involved in such disciplines are faced with the challenge to incorporate in their research methodological  repertory, a set of  updated approaches (e.g.,  the design vs. natural research approach (March & Smith, 1995; Hevner et al. 2004), among others).

While there are excellent and multiple research books available at present, a majority of them are focused either on a single discipline, a single approach, or on statistical or qualitative procedures and techniques. Furthermore, while some integrative studies on research approaches appear in refereed journals and conference proceedings, these are scarce.

We believe that the integrative and systemic approach -used in this book with its interdisciplinary and multi-methodological research chapters- will provide an integrated source of high-quality material with rigor and relevance on research approaches for researchers in the highly interrelated disciplines of Software Systems Engineering and Information Systems. Adopting such an systemic approach from an editorial perspective, we propose that a research approach (extended from Ackoff et al. 1962; Checkland, 1983, 2000; Jackson, 1991; Gelman & Garcia, 1989)) may be used  as an answering and problem-solving system comprising: (i) philosophical paradigms (P’s: an ontological, epistemological and axiological stance on the world): (ii) theoretical frameworks (F’s: ideas-constructs, theories, and models); (iii) methodologies (M’s: methods, techniques, and instruments), and (iv) situational domains (D’s:  natural, artificial or social objects, artifacts and subjects under study).

Thus, this book invited authors through an open call for chapters and through special contributions, for submitting high-quality chapters which enhance our scientific knowledge on Software Systems Engineering and Information Systems. We had a very positive academic response of the scientific community interested in the theme of research paradigms and methodologies. Finally, after a rigorous peer-review process, 20 high-quality chapters were approved for their publication. These 20 chapters are grouped in three sections. The section I titled “Foundations de Research Methods and Paradigms” includes 8 chapters. The section II titled “Contemporaneous Research Methods and Techniques” includes 6 chapters, and the section III titled “Innovative Research Methods and Techniques” includes also 6 chapters.

Section 1 -“Foundations of Research Methods and Paradigms”- present 8 chapters that address philosophy of science themes as well as particular methodological research problems (extension of classic science methods used in SwE, development of process theories, and a survey of research methods and paradigms).  In chapter 1, Eileen M. Trauth and Lee B. Erickson, both in the Pennsylvania State University, USA, highlight the relevance of researchers in IT area can identify the philosophical framing which explicit or implicitly are endorsing through the selected research method or methods. For this aim, the authors propose a 5-dimensional framework (on epistemology, theory, review of literature, stakeholder perspective, and rigor-relevance) for reporting several research methods.  Authors concludes with the defense of being methodologically plural given that  while “Methodological conservatism might be in order in some areas” ... “research that endeavors to respond to real-world problems needs to employ a variety of methodological tools”.

In chapter 2, Damodar Konda, an IT consulting in Global Business Applications, Michigan, USA, presents a comprehensive IS research process model which highlights rigor as well relevance. Author identifies that a trade-off situation is usually accepted in IT research circles, and that such a debate for a balance between among must be reached. However, author also identifies that few studies from practitioner’s view have been conducted. Consequently, author elaborates a research process model -based on extant literature- but strongly focused on a praxis view, given his experience as an IT consultant. This chapter, thus contributes bringing to the IT academic arena, the voice of IT users through IT consultant.

In chapter 3, Jan H. Kroeze in the School of Computing, University of South Africa, South Africa, develops the thesis of placing Interpretivism as a legitimate Potsmodernism philosophical stance for Information Systems, in contrast to other intellectual positions where Interpretivism is considered as parallel to Postmodernism (Klein & Myers, 1999, p. 68). Once established it, the author reviews the utilization of ontologies in the ICT domain under a Postmodernism perspective. Given that “Postmodernism accepts a plurality of ethics and lifestyles. It rejects ontological priority and allows alternative understandings” and “Postmodernism is skeptic about a solid basis to differentiate between truth and falsehood. It rejects traditional authorities and grand narratives”, the deployment of ontologies is considered more than a hyper-multiple reality specification rather than a formal and unique one. Author concludes that despite such perils “the marriage of ontology and information systems also creates interesting opportunities to humanize technology. Interpretivist research approaches will often be the vehicles used to facilitate this process.”

In chapter 4, Phillip Dobson, in Edith Cowan University, Australia, elaborates a brief but substantial review on the tenets of Bhaskar's Transcendental Realism philosophy of science – also called Critical Realism- and reports a set of methodological recommendations for its better utilization in IT research. Author reports that Transcendental Realism has been few used in this domain and that additionally its utilization is not ease. Author identifies Abduction as the main innovative logical mechanism – in contrast to Deduction and Induction as classic modes of scientific inferences, as well as other core tenets of Transcendental Realism as follows: the intransitive (e.g. the ontological layer) vs the transitive layer (e.g. the epistemological layer), the empirical, actual and real layers, and the need to compare diverse competitive models before to arrive to a plausible finding. Furthermore, author proposes to rely on   Hedström and Swedberg's and Archer’s morphogenetic models as methodological guidelines to apply Transcendental Realism in IT research.

In chapter 5 Luccio Biggiero in  the Department of Economic Systems and Institutions in the L’Aquila University, Italy, analyzes the still -in some domains- dichotomy and confrontation of Realist and Constructivist views of what is knowledge: as an object versus as a process. Author reviews the main arguments of each intellectual position and proposes to introduce a Pragmatic philosophical stance for integrating both specifications of what is knowledge. Furthermore, given that position of knowledge as process is supported mainly by social scientists which also endorses the autopoiesis theory, the author claims that exist several second-order cybernetics conceptual tools – like automata studies, complexity theory, artificial life, social network analysis, and researches in organizational cognition and learning – already available that becomes autopoiesis an unnecessary theory. Author concludes that  “the development of IS/IT studies and the design of knowledge management systems would substantially benefit” of an accepted  dual-view of knowledge.

In chapter 6, Gonzalo Génova, Juan Llorens and Jorge Morato, all of them in Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain, review the general assumption on the sufficiency of using a classic scientific method (observation, hypotheses, and experimentation for not refutation/refutation of hypotheses). They suggest that such a process, while is totally sufficient for physical-alike sciences could be not so totally suitable for Software Engineering domain. The main reason is that Software Engineering (and other IT related disciplines) have systems as units of study  comprising technology and humans, and they are affected by human social environments. Authors support their claims alerting on the risks of using the classic scientific method through a mechanical mode. Thus, authors elaborate the thesis and the supporting arguments to have a plurality of research methods in the Software Engineering domain.

In chapter 7,  Martha García-Murillo and Ezgi Nur Gozen, in Syracuse University, USA,    identify the relevance and lack of utilization of process theories in the domain of IT research. Authors consider that due to IT field “IS field is grounded in its applications to organizations, the challenge is to develop a coherent theoretical body of scholarly research, while also remaining relevant to the needs of the practitioner community”. Under such a situation, authors consider that variance-based theories, while are useful, do not account for all research situations. Consequently, they must be complemented with process theories. Authors, thus, review the process theories tenets and provide a taxonomy for guiding new IT researchers interested in using this research view.

Section 1 ends with the chapter 8 from book guest editors (Manuel Mora from Autonomous University of Aguascalientes, Mexico;  Annette Steenkamp from Lawrence Technical University, Michigan, USA; Ovsei Gelman from Universidad Nacional  Autónoma de México, México; and Mahesh S. Raininghani from Texas Woman's University, USA). In this chapter, we review the landscape of research methodologies and paradigms available for Information Technology (IT)  and  Software Engineering (SwE).  Our objectives are two-fold: (i) create awareness in current research communities in IT and SwE on the variety of research paradigms and methodologies, and (ii) provide an useful  map for guiding new researchers on the selection of an IT or SwE research paradigm and methodology. To achieve this, we review the core IT and SwE research methodological literature, and based on the findings, we illustrate an updated IT and SwE research framework that comprehensively integrates findings and best practices and provides a coherent systemic (holistic) view of this research landscape.

Section 2 -“Contemporaneous Research Methods and Techniques”- present 6 chapters that are focused on current modern research methods and techniques. Statistical-based modern techniques like covariance-based SEM, variance-based structural equation modeling, action research, grounded theory, and case studies are reported. Additionally practical recommendations for organizing theories and for combining conceptual and empirical research are addressed. In chapter 9, Theresa M. Edgington in Baylor University, USA and Peter M. Bentler, in the University of California – Los Angeles -, USA, review the covariance-based structural equation modeling execution and analysis procedures. They explain that despite of the almost 15 years of being used in the IT discipline, still there are critical omissions in the statistical information reported in IT research papers. Authors report methodological guidelines illustrating them through EQS – a software platform which implements covariance-based algorithms posed by one of the authors (Bentler and Weeks, 1980). Their target users are covariance-based structural equation modeling users rather than developers of such software tools, with the final aim to reduce inconsistency in acceptance criteria for well-executed research using  covariance-based SEM.

In chapter 10, José L. Roldán and  Manuel J. Sánchez-Franco, both in the University of Sevilla, Spain, complement chapter II.1 with a thoughtful review of the main SEM method: Partial Least Squares (PLS). PLS is  variance-based SEM in contrast to most known and used covariance-based SEM implemented in LISREL, AMOS or EQS software tools.  Authors recognize that studies reporting PLS limitations exist in the literature. However, as it is reported in the chapter, PLS is a correct  data analysis technique for SEM when their research assumptions are respected. In particular, authors report that such conditions are less restrictive that covariance-based SEM techniques, but their purpose must be also limited to predictive.

In chapters 11 and 12, Ruth De Villiers, in  the University of South Africa, South Africa, presents the a review of interpretative research methods. Action research and Grounded Theory research methods are presented in first part. Development research, design-science research, and design-based research (a term coined for educational technology research) are presented in second part.  Author provides a well-structured descriptive review of such five research methods. Such descriptions help to new researchers to for being introduced in such methods and capturing a well-developed  global perspective from an efficient release mode.

In chapter 13, Rory O'Connor in Dublin City University, Ireland, elaborates a methodological research integration of two well-known qualitative research methodologies: Case Study and Grounded Theory. Authors indicate that while the former is widely used in Information Systems, the latter is less known despite its similar initial reports of use in the early 1990s. Succinctly authors distinguish the concept of methodology (as a full set of procedures and philosophical assumptions) and from methods (as individual techniques) for elaborating a full integrated methodology. Additionally it is enhanced with a Focus Group data collection technique.  Authors illustrate it with a real case in the Irish software industry of VSB.

In chapter 14, T. Schwartzel and M. Eloff, in the University of South Africa, identifies an international problem of a high rate of non-completion graduate studies in developed countries. Authors suggest that a wrong research methodological preparation of such graduate students based on the  Johnstone El-Bana Model, whom could select a high difficult problem with many included sub-problems. Authors review several research frameworks to identify shared phases and aims, and elaborate an thoughtful integration consisting of four phases: Planning, Approach, Analysis and Evaluation, and Validation. Authors provides sufficient methodological guidelines on it.

In chapter 15 Annette L. Steenkamp in Lawrence Technological University, USA, and Theresa Kraft in University of Michigan-Flint, USA, provides an integrated methodological research approach which includes conceptual and empirical methods. Authors illustrate their 4-theme based methodology with a real case in the domain of success factors for managing IT Projects. The themes are: Research Planning (Problem Analysis & Literature Review); Proposal Development; Conceptualization; and  Experimentation and Research Validation.

Section 3 - “Innovative Research Methods and Techniques”- completes this book with 6 chapters that report modern and still few used research methods and techniques. These are: analysis of content (latent dimensions) through visualization of the network and vector spaces, system dynamics, soft systems and work systems, systems engineering, and engineering design. In chapter 16 Esther Vlieger and Loet Leydesdorff, in the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, report an  innovative quantitative technique to visualize latent dimensions (called frames) enclosed in a collection of textual messages.  Authors indicate that social scientists are advancing their usual analysis of latent dimensions in messages from classic factor analysis and multidimensional scale analysis to a more rich vizualization mode. Authors describes one of such innovative modes based in computer-based content analysis in the network and vector spaces of the usual word-document matrix. Final long-term aim of this research is advancing the  modeling of the dynamics of knowledge in scientific discourse, under the premise of  that is happens in the vector space rather in the network space.

In chapter 17, Miroljub Kljajic, Mirjana Kljajic Borštnar, Andrej Škraba and Davorin Kofjac, in the University of Maribor, in Slovenia, elaborates the case for System Dynamics as a legitimated research methodology for doing research in Information Systems. Authors report that despite of the old origin of System Dynamics (early 1960s), their utilization in Information System research is reduced. Authors describe the methodological steps used in System Dynamcs and illustrate with three already reported cases of use in the literature.  Authors indicate as main advantage of System Dynamics -as a part of the Systems Approach methodologies- ist ability to define in natural language a problem model, which finally can be translated in the simulation model for convenient qualitative and quantitative analysis in a computer program.

In chapter 18, Doncho Petkov in Eastern Connecticut State University, USA, and Steven Alter, in the University of San Francisco, USA, lead a chapter – written jointly with John Wing, Alan Singh, and Thomas Andrew, in Durban University of Technology, South Africa, and Olga Petkova in Central Connecticut State University, USA and  Koshesh Sewchurran, in University of Cape Town, South Africa- on the modes of Soft Systems Methodology, Work Systems Method, and Agile System Development can be used jointly for particular system development project contexts. Authors quote a Professor Boehm's call for using a more holistic approach for developing current complex software systems. On such recommendation author identify  and compare alternative contexts for software and system development and pose guidelines for using combinations of the aforementioned methodologies in particular project contexts. This research, then, advances on the integration of two system development methods (Work System Method and Agile Development) with a research-oriented methodology (soft systems methodology) for Software Engineering.

In chapter 19, Moti Frank in  Holon Institute of Technolog, in Israel, reports an innovative combination of interpreting findings results from experimentation with single case of studies (different of the usual experimentation on at least two groups with at least 20 subjects by group) as a wider descriptive research study. Authors uses two date from two case studies (using experiments on single case studies) in the domain of Systems Engineering for large-scale system projects. One case is about the contrast of the system development strategy for Defense Projects, and the other one about the contrast of the system integration strategy for electronics-software embedded systems. Author contributes with an innovative research descriptive proposal for coping with real Systems Engineering problems related with the selection of development and integration strategies, which cannot be studied by normal experimentation by the cost and other organizational difficulties related with these kind of projects (time pressures, confidentiality of information, scope and size of projects, among others).

In chapter 20, Timothy L.J. Ferris, in University of South Australia, Australia, elaborates the case for Engineering Design as a legitimate research methodology. Author traces Engineering journals to identify a shared research purpose of Engineering Design. A contrast with Science oriented research is reported where a generalizable knowledge on the extant things is expected, while that in Engineering design research is about to propose satisfying solutions to current needs. Author argues that Research Design is valued by its contribution to the know-how and the knowing types of knowledge while that Science is focused in advancing the “know that” type of knowledge. Finally, author advances on usual Engineering general hypothesis from feasibility of building an artifact to feasibility of building an artifact which satisfies a particular need.

In chapter 21, Rafael A. Gonzalez in Javeriana University, in Colombia, and Henk G. Sol, in University of Groningen, in The Netherlands, elaborates a theory validation scheme for Design Research - for Information Systems -. Authors initially describes the theory validation problematic in Design Research, for which a variety of guidelines but not still uniquely accepted are available. Authors elaborate such a validation scheme through a thoughtful review of epistemological types, reasoning types, and theory types, which should be considered for a logical consistency and coherence in the selection and utilization of the suitable evaluation technique. Authors contribute to Design Research with a comprehensive review of the main different and conflicting tenets reported in the literature. Given the complexity of this topic, authors suggest several open questions, where the notion of insufficiency of evaluation or validation of the artifact can happen  “... because its acceptance or usefulness may not necessarily be an inherent property of the artifact and its theoretical premises, but rather the result of its configuration in a particular context (and as such, contextual factors should enter into the evaluation / validation effort). Conversely, if the artifact does not work or does not work as expected, this may suggest contextual limitations, rather than disconfirmation

This book was projected to pursue the following aims:  (i) to advance our scientific knowledge on the diverse research approaches used in Engineering of Software Systems and Information Systems, (ii) to update and integrate disperse and valuable knowledge on research approaches isolated in each discipline, (iii) to make available to Software Systems Engineering and Information Systems faculty a repertory of such research approaches in a single source, and (iv) to serve to the following academic and research international audiences: research-oriented faculty in Engineering of Software Systems and Information Systems disciplines, PhD Students on in Engineering of Software Systems and Information Systems disciplines, and Instructors of graduate Research Methods courses on Engineering of Software Systems and Information Systems disciplines.

Hence, we believe that the 21 high-quality chapters included in this book, makes real the aforementioned objectives. We finally, thank all chapter authors, external reviewers, and the IGI Editorial staff as their collaborative work has made this book possible.

Dr. Manuel Mora, Autonomous University of Aguascalientes, Mexico
Dr. Annette Steenkamp, Lawrence Technological University, USA
Dr. Ovsei Gelman, CCADET-UNAM, Mexico


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Bhaskar, R. (2008). A realist theory of science. London, UK: Leeds Books.

Boehm, B. (2000). Unifying software engineering and systems engineering. Computer, March, 114-116.

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Mingers, J. (2000). Variety is the spice of life: Combining soft and hard OR/MS methods. International Transactions in Operations Research, 7, 673-691.

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Mora, M., Gelman, O., Frank, M., Paradice, D., Cervantes, F. & Forgionne, G. (2008). Toward an interdisciplinary engineering and management of complex IT-intensive organizational systems: A systems view. The International Journal of Information Technologies and the Systems Approach, 1(1), 1-24.

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Valerdi, R., & Davidz, H. (2009). Empirical research in systems engineering: Challenges and opportunities of a new frontier. Systems Engineering Journal, 12(2), 169-181.

Author(s)/Editor(s) Biography

Manuel Mora-Tavarez is a Full Professor of Information Systems in the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes (UAA), Mexico, since 1994. Dr. Mora holds a B.S. in Computer Systems Engineering (1984) and a M.Sc. in Artificial Intelligence (1989) from Monterrey Tech (ITESM), and an Eng.D. in Systems Engineering (2003) from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He has published around 50 research papers in international top conferences, books, and/or journals. Dr. Mora has co-edited two books on DMSS and i-DMSS, and serves in editorial review boards for several international journals. His current main research interests are: foundations of service systems, design and evaluation methodologies for DMSS, and foundations of research methods for systems engineering, software engineering, and IT underpinned in the systems approach.
Ovsei Gelman-Muravchik is a Senior Researcher at the Center of Applied Sciences and Technology Development (CCADET) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Tbilisi, Georgia. In the last 35 years he has contributed to the advance of the systems science discipline and interdisciplinary research through the publication of approximately 250 research papers in books, national and international journals, and conference proceedings, as well as by the participation as an advisor in the Engineering Graduate Program at UNAM and by the consulting for governmental and private organizations.
Annette Lerine Steenkamp is Professor of Information Technology Management at the Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan, USA. She has a PhD in Computer Science, University of South Africa with specialization in Software Engineering, with Dr. Daniel Teichroew, University of Michigan as supervisor. Her academic career spans several generations of computing systems, during which she taught a range of subjects at the graduate and doctoral level in the fields of Software Engineering, Enterprise Architecture, System Process Improvement, Project Management, Quality Assurance, and Research Methodology. Her current research agenda include the fields of knowledge management, enterprise architecture, and systems life cycle management, and she is engaged in supervising a number of doctoral research projects. She has contributed a large body of journal articles and conference papers at national and international conferences, and is a sought after keynote speaker. She serves on several editorial review boards, including IJITSA (International Journal of Information Technologies and the Systems Approach).
Mahesh S. Raisinghani is an Associate Professor in the Executive MBA program at the TWU School of Management. Dr. Raisinghani was awarded the 2008 Excellence in Research & Scholarship award and the 2007 G. Ann Uhlir Endowed Fellowship in Higher Education Administration. He was also the recipient of TWU School of Management's 2005 Best Professor Award for the Most Innovative Teaching Methods; 2002 research award; 2001 King/Haggar Award for excellence in teaching, research, and service; and a 1999 UD-GSM Presidential Award. His research has been published in several academic journals and international/national conferences. Dr. Raisinghani serves on the board of the Global IT Management Association and on the education task force of the World Affairs Council-D/FW. He is included in the millennium edition of Who's Who in the World, Who's Who among Professionals, Who's Who among America's Teachers and Who's Who in Information Technology.