Reframing interpretivism and positivism as understanding and explanation: Consequences for information systems research

Dirk S. Hovorka, Allen S. Lee

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

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This research offers a new perspective by reframing the positivist-interpretive debate as a distinction between the functional outcomes of research: explanation and understanding. Based on an older and well-established literature in philosophy, this distinction can reinvigorate important differences in research outcomes that have been lost. Understanding or "subjective meaning" is connected to the intentionality, thoughts, and motivations of the human subjects under study. From this perspective, understanding is the type of knowledge gained from determining the meanings, categories, and symbols humans attach to actions, knowledge, and systems. In contrast, explanation is achieved by subsuming individual instantiations of the phenomenon under broad general laws, or identifying causal mechanisms that support antecedent-consequent pairs. Researchers can proactively use the understanding-explanation distinction as a heuristic to create new lines of research questions based on what has not been explained or understood rather than on which ontology or methodology has not been used.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICIS 2010 Proceedings
Subtitle of host publicationThirty First International Conference on Information Systems
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Event31st International Conference on Information Systems, ICIS 2010 - Saint Louis, MO, United States
Duration: 12 Dec 201015 Dec 2010
Conference number: 31st

Conference

Conference31st International Conference on Information Systems, ICIS 2010
Abbreviated titleICIS 2010
CountryUnited States
CitySaint Louis, MO
Period12/12/1015/12/10

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