Validation and Design Science Research in Information Systems

Validation and Design Science Research in Information Systems

Rafael A. Gonzalez (Javeriana University, Colombia) and Henk G. Sol (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0179-6.ch021
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Validation within design science research in Information Systems (DSRIS) is much debated. The relationship of validation to artifact evaluation is still not clear. This chapter aims at elucidating several components of DSRIS in relation to validation. The role of theory and theorizing are an important starting point, because there is no agreement as to what types of theory should be produced. Moreover, if there is a theoretical contribution, then there needs to be clear guidance as to how the designed artifact and its evaluation are related to the theory and its validation. The epistemological underpinnings of DSRIS are also open to different alternatives, including positivism, interpretivism, and pragmatism, which affect the way that the validation strategy is conceived, and later on, accepted or rejected. The type of reasoning guiding a DSRIS endeavor, whether deductive, inductive, or abductive, should also be considered as it determines the fundamental logic behind any research validation. Once those choices are in place, artifact evaluation may be carried out, depending on the type of artifact and the type of technique available. Finally, the theoretical contribution may be validated from a formative (process-oriented) or summative (product-oriented) perspective.
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For researchers in computer science and information systems, carrying out their work and presenting their results in a scientific way has been a longstanding concern. A significant contribution in this sense was submitted by Denning et al. (1989) as the result of the Task Force on the Core of Computer Science, which precisely stems from the question “Is computer science a science?” They presented the computer science (CS) discipline as resting on three paradigms: theory (rooted in mathematics), abstraction (rooted in the scientific method) and design (rooted in engineering). As such, they determine CS as sitting at the crossroads between those processes and thus being inherently, yet not totally, scientific. In fact, more recently, Denning (2005) still poses the original question in the title of a paper which establishes CS as a science, but with a credibility problem; in other words, CS as a science is seen as a work in progress. From an information systems perspective, around the same time as the Denning et al. paper, Nunamaker et al. (1990) contributed an influential paper concerned with a similar question. They support systems development as a research methodology in its own right, providing the process and the criteria required for this purpose. In their view, systems development results in an artifact that is the proof of concept for fundamental (design-oriented) research as well as potentially the focus of further (behavioral-oriented) research. Some years ago, a contribution by Hevner et al. followed a similar approach in presenting their proposal for a design science in information systems research (Hevner & March, 2003; Hevner, March, Park, & Ram, 2004). This will be the focus of the present chapter with an emphasis on the logic and process of validation within such a framework.

Design science seeks to create innovations that define the ideas, practices, technical capabilities, and products through which the analysis, design, implementation, management, and use of information systems can be effectively and efficiently accomplished (Hevner, March, Park, & Ram, 2004). As such, a design science research in information systems (DSRIS) contribution requires identifying a relevant organizational information and communication technology (ICT) problem, demonstrating that no solution exists, developing an ICT artifact that addresses this problem, rigorously evaluating the artifact, articulating the contribution to the ICT knowledge-base and to practice, and explaining the implications for ICT management and practice (March & Storey, 2008).

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