Causality: The elephant in the room in information systems epistemology

Shirley Gregor*, Dirk S. Hovorka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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Causal reasoning is central to scientific practice and to everyday life, yet has received scant attention in Information Systems epistemology. This essay identifies six types of causal analysis that can be used in IS research: regularity, counterfactual, probabilistic, manipulation, substantival (mental), and enabling condition analysis. A framework is developed for application of the different types of analysis in terms of two dimensions; planned versus emergent systems and prescriptive versus descriptive modes of research. It is shown how the different types of analysis can be used in each cell of the framework. The identification of the substantival and enabling condition types of analysis for Information Systems research is novel. Further work is indicated, particularly with respect to probabilistically necessary and sufficient conditions, qualitative evaluation of causal chains, and the plausibility of claims for causality with some statistical methods in common use.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECIS 2011 Proceedings
EditorsV.K. Tuunainen
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventEuropean Conference on Information Systems : ICT and Sustainable Service Development - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 9 Jun 201111 Jun 2011
Conference number: 19th


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Information Systems
Abbreviated titleECIS 2011


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