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19: Advancing Theories and Theorizing in IS Research

Track Description


The generation of knowledge from data can likely be seen as one of the key contributions of any science. Consequently, scholars like Whetten (1989), Steinfield and Fulk (1990), and Blalock (1969) have emphasized the centrality of theories for any scientific endeavor – a thought widely reflected in many disciplines from natural to social sciences (Atmanspacher 2007). While this attention to theoretical work has been at the heart of the IS discipline for a long time (cf. Keen 1980), we believe that advanced theorizing in an increasingly networked society calls for a dedicated discussion on the evolution of existing methodological and conceptual approaches to theorizing. Particularly the growing connection of individuals and groups with other people and organizations forces us to pay attention to complexity and contingencies that create opportunities and challenges for the careful development of new theories.
Recently we have seen some of our reference disciplines turn towards reviving their own examination of theories and theoretical work and their role in producing high quality scholarly contributions (e.g., in management research with contributions by Corley and Gioia 2011; Hillman 2011; Shapira 2011; Shepherd and Sutcliffe 2011; Suddaby et al. 2011; Thompson 2011; Tsang and Ellsaesser 2011). It is this rekindled interest that leads us to suggest that the IS discipline, too, should intensify its discussion of theory and theorizing above and beyond such landmark papers as Gregor’s (2006) influential piece on the role of theory in IS research, Urquhart et al.'s (2010) guidelines for theory building, Weber’s (2012) treatment of quality of theories and theorizing, or Straub’s (2012) discussion on native IS theories.

This track is targeted towards picking up this debate. It provides a platform for the discussion and development of new approaches to theorizing as well as new methods to inform this theorizing. We also want to engage in a differentiated discussion on the nature and role of our theorizing in our discipline in order to advance our understanding of the “networked society.”

We seek submissions that are innovative, novel, and significant in terms of advancing our discipline’s ability to theorize phenomena in the networked society. We place particular emphasis on a submission’s ability to highlight how it helps us as a discipline to better describe, explain, predict, and design these phenomena. The latter requires special considerations. Following the classic work of Simon (1981), artifacts have an inside and outside view and we encourage specific consideration of both. In methodological contributions, we encourage potential authors to elaborate on what in the phenomena we study can now be captured better and how and why the method suggested is able to do that. Authors of methodological pieces are encouraged to carefully reflect on issues of epistemology in their work. In theoretical pieces, we will look not only for novel ideas, but also for a careful integration with what is known already and how and why the new contribution advances existing nomological nets.

Types of Contributions

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Conceptual advances in theories for IS research
    • New theories on phenomena of the networked society
    • Significant advances or critiques of existing theories (e.g., innovative or substantially improved construct conceptualizations or meaningful extensions through additional constructs)
    • Exploration of multi-level aspects extending existing theories
    • Integration / synthesis of existing theories
    • Detailed application of existing theories to inform design and action (e.g., formal verification, design theories, as well as exploring the interaction between technology artifact and humans)
    • Reflections on theories-in-practice and what we can learn from their application
  • Methodological advances in theorizing about IS phenomena
    • New or advanced methods for data collection with an emphasis on what kind of data they contribute beyond conventional methods as well as a discussion of how and why this advances our theorizing
    • New or refined methods of data analysis (i.e., theorizing, theory building) with an emphasis on a comparison to established approaches and a discussion of how and why they advance our theorizing
    • Strategies for inductive theorizing and the building of substantive theories grounded in an IS context
    • The interplay of theory and design and how engaged forms of scholarly work help to advance our discipline theoretically
    • A constructive critique of existing methods and an identification of impacts on and limits to current theorizing
  • The nature and role of theoretical contributions of IS research
    • An analysis of the current state-of-the-art of the discipline’s theorizing
    • Reflections on what can be learned from reference disciplines
    • Frameworks and typologies for theories and theoretical work in IS

Track Chairs

Benjamin Müller <primary contact>

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Dr. Benjamin Mueller is Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Change Management at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Before joining the University of Groningen, Benjamin worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of Mannheim, Germany, and continues his involvement there as an Associate Researcher of Mannheim’s Institute for Enterprise Systems. He received his doctorate from EBS Business School in Wiesbaden, Germany in 2010. Prior to that, he studied Business Administration and Information Systems at both EBS Business School and at Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, and holds graduate degrees from both institutions. Recently he was a Visiting Scholar at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth as well as at Bentley University in Waltham, MA. Benjamin is currently researching the interplay of organizational and technological facets of Enterprise Systems and is particularly interested in processes of organizational change in Enterprise Systems from an IT business value perspective. His work has been published in the Journal of Management Information Systems (JMIS) as well as in proceedings of key international conferences. Benjamin has received the ECIS 2010 Best Paper Award and was a Best Paper nominee at ICIS 2013 and ECIS 2007 as well as a Ciborra Award nominee at ECIS 2007. Beyond his research, Benjamin has worked as a consultant in the area of IT strategy and IT benchmarking and gathered practical experience with corporations in the US and Europe.

Dorothy Leidner

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Dorothy Leidner

Dorothy E. Leidner, PhD is the Ferguson Professor of Information Systems at Baylor University and the director of the PhD program in Information Systems. During the summers, Dorothy serves as a visiting professor at the University of Mannheim in Germany. Dorothy received her BA, MBA, and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. She has over 50 refereed publications in such journals as MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Organization Science, Journal of Management Information Systems, Decision Sciences Journal, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, and MIS Quarterly Executive, among others. She has received numerous best paper awards, including the MIS Quarterly Best Paper Award (1995), the Senior Scholar’s Best Publication Award (2007), the Journal of Strategic Information Systems Best Paper Honorable Mention Award (2009 and 2010), the Decision Sciences Journal Best Article Finalist (2008), the Academy of Management OCIS division best paper award (2000) and a best track paper (1993) and runner-up best track paper (1999) from the HICCS conference. Dorothy has previously served as AE and SE for MIS Quarterly. She currently serves as senior editor for the Review Theory section of JAIS and as Editor-in-Chief of MIS Quarterly Executive. Dorothy was selected as an AIS Fellow in 2011.

Nils Urbach

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Nils Urbach

Dr. Nils Urbach is Professor of Information Systems and Strategic IT Management at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, where he is also Deputy Director of the FIM Research Center and the Fraunhofer Project Group Business and Information Systems Engineering. Before, he was Assistant Professor at EBS Business School in Wiesbaden. He also received his doctorate from EBS. Furthermore, he holds a diploma in information systems from the University of Paderborn. In 2008, he stayed as Visiting Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, in 2012 at HEC Lausanne. Complementary to his academic work, he worked as Management Consultant with Horváth & Partners in Stuttgart and Accenture in Frankfurt. Nils has been working in the fields of strategic IT management and collaborative information systems for several years. In his current research, he focuses on IT governance, IT outsourcing management, and IT standardization, among others. His work has been published in several international journals such as the Journal of Information Technology, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application, Business Process Management Journal, and Business & Information Systems Engineering as well as in the proceedings of key international conferences. Nils was a Best Paper nominee at ICIS 2013.

Associate Editors

  • Frederik Ahlemann, University of Duisburg-Essen
  • Andrew Burton-Jones, University of Queensland
  • Samir Chatterjee, Claremont Graduate University
  • Yogesh Dwivedi, Swansea University
  • Nik R. Hassan, University of Minnesota Duluth
  • Dirk Hovorka, Bond University
  • Allen Lee, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Sebastian Olbrich, Mercator School of Management
  • Suzanne Rivard, HEC Montreal
  • Suprateek Sarker, Washington State University
  • Henk Sol, University of Groningen
  • Ron Thompson, Wake Forest University
  • Ron Weber, Monash University

Additional Information


Our track collaborates closely with the European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS). Based on the reviews and editorial recommendations, the authors of the best papers submitted to the track will be invited to participate in the EJIS paper development workshop immediately after the ECIS conference. There, authors will have the opportunity to further develop their papers for consideration as part of a planned EJIS special issue building upon the track.

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