Research Conducted by Professional Information Systems Practitioners in Organisations in South Africa

Research Conducted by Professional Information Systems Practitioners in Organisations in South Africa

Udo Richard Averweg (eThekwini Municipality, South Africa & University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch063
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Background To Practitioner Research

Practitioner research is often used as an umbrella term for a variety of research-based activities – mostly in the fields of education and social and health care. While there is not much literature that discusses other professional areas, practitioner research implies that all practitioners will learn from the research into their practice. This is not always the case in other forms of research (eg. scientific). Campbell (2007) suggests that practitioner research also aims at improving rather proving as an approach to research.

Practitioner research can be defined as systematic inquiry-based efforts directed towards creating and extending professional knowledge and associated understandings of professional practice (Goodfellow, 2005). Practitioner research is located in the field of practice-based or applied research which covers all research about and into practice. It is argued that such practice includes the IS discipline. Research and practice are linked by an exchange in which researchers offer theories and techniques applicable to practice problems; and practitioners, in turn, give researchers new problems to frame and practical tests of the utility of research results (Schön, 2001). Furlong and Oancea (2005: p.1) suggest that practitioner research is like applied research – “an area situated between academia-led theoretical pursuits and research-informed practice.” Groundwater-Smith and Mockler (2006: p.107) opine that in the field of practice-based research “those involved in practitioner enquiry are bound to engage with both ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ knowledge moving seamlessly between the two.” Should this movement not occur, a research gap between theory and practice will arise. Sahay and Walsham (1995) suggest that research which strongly engages with theory can help bridge the gap between theory and practice. Practitioner research allows practitioners [including professional IS practitioners] to undertake small-scale research in case studies, ethnographic studies and to be eclectic in their use of methods during inquiry (Campbell, McNamara & Gilroy, 2004: p.80). Inquiry is an integral part of how new knowledge is generated in IS practice. Work in organisations engenders constant change where new knowledge, understanding and new ways of looking at IS practices through practitioner-led inquiry can bring about innovation and the ability to infuse change in these organisations. IS is about how humans use information technology (IT) with specific emphasis on organisational use.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Practitioner Research: Systematic inquiry-based efforts directed towards creating and extending professional knowledge and associated understandings of professional practice.

Information Systems Specialists: They focus on integrating information technology solutions and business processes to meet the information needs of businesses enabling them to achieve their objectives in an effective, efficient way.

Computing: Any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computers.

Professional: In the Information Systems discipline it means any person practicing or managing the practice of skills used in the performance of work in the family of computing disciplines and who subscribes to the Code of Conduct and the rules of the recognised institute for its registered members.

Information Technology: Its emphasis is on the technology itself more than on the information it conveys.

Professional Knowledge Creation: Knowledge which is derived from the systematic accumulation of evidence in the professional Information Systems practitioner’s environment in organisations.

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