Formulating a Framework for Desktop Research in Chinese Information Systems

Formulating a Framework for Desktop Research in Chinese Information Systems

Lihong Zhou (Wuhan University, China) and Miguel Baptista Nunes (The University of Sheffield, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8833-9.ch011
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The investigation of information systems (IS) development usually relies on two different research approaches, namely, quantitative approach and qualitative approach. Both approaches are equally important and useful to the development of IS theories. No research approach should be considered to be superior or inferior to the other. However, the mainstream of Chinese IS research mainly follows the quantitative approach, whereas the qualitative approach is generally viewed as “too soft” or not scientific enough. As a qualitative approach, desk case-study research approach has been widely accepted and applied in a number of IS research in the West. However, in China, this approach is merely considered as an effective approach for teaching, but not valid for scientific research investigations. Thus, Chinese IS research have neglected a number of important experiences, viewpoints and lessons, which can be elicited from IS case-studies occurred in the past. This chapter generally aims at introducing and discussing the desk case-study approach in IS research. Specifically, this chapter discusses this approach through four incremental research stages, namely, defining the research question, establishing theoretical framework from literature review, case-study selection, and theory formulation through case-study analysis. Furthermore, two exemplary research projects are presented in this chapter to further clarify and substantiate the research methods, tools and processes. It is expected that by formulating a rigorous research framework and specifying incremental processes of theory development, this research approach could be accepted and used by Chinese IS scholars in the future.
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2. Defining The Desk Case-Study Approach

Desk research is generally accepted as equate to literature review and is very concisely defined by Jackson (1994, p. 21) as “the process of accessing published secondary data”. This definition points to two distinct characteristics of desk research. Firstly, desk research exclusively relies on published secondary data. The term “published” is very broadly used here and includes books, journals, articles indexed in many databases, and business and research reports (Jackson, 1994, pp. 21-22). The “secondary data” refers to a type of data, which “already exists and has been collected in the past for some purpose quite unconnected to our project” (Jackson, 1994, p. 20). Secondly, all processes of desk research are exercised “in-house” (Jackson, 1994, p. 11).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Desk Research: A research approach used for critically evaluating and analysing secondary data and existing literature.

Inductive Approach: A “bottom up” approach for research investigations, which aim at theory development. An inductive study begins with specific observation and evaluation in order to identify patterns and regularities, which are then articulated into tentative hypotheses. Finally, based on these hypotheses, general conclusions or theories are developed.

Thematic Analysis: Can be simply understood as a systematic approach to coding, categorising and representing qualitative data.

Qualitative Research: A systematic research methodology, which depends on the use of words. Qualitative research studies attempt to analyse data collected from the research context in which events occur, as well as from the perspectives of those participating in the events.

Secondary Data: A type of data gathered by someone in the past, for some purposes very different from the research project at hand.

Quantitative Research: Attempts to understand a social phenomenon by interpreting numbers. This paradigm emphasises quantification in the processes of data collection and analysis.

Case Study: A very common research methodology for qualitative studies, which aim to explore and understand complex and localised human activity systems and social environments.

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