Learning from First-generation Qualitative Approaches in the IS Discipline: An Evolutionary View and Some Implications for Authors and Evaluators (Part 1/2)

Suprateek Sarker, Xiao Xiao, Tanya Beaulieu, Allen S. Lee

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Qualitative research in the information systems (IS) discipline has come a long way, from being dismissed as “exploratory research” or “preresearch,” not worthy of being featured in “scientific” and authoritative journals in the discipline, to a state where such research is seen as legitimate and even welcome scholarship within much of the mainstream IS research community. Despite these very positive developments in line with the value of pluralism that our discipline has embraced, and the gradual inclusion of qualitative work in high-profile mainstream outlets, recent editorials have expressed concerns regarding the research community’s lack of awareness about the diverse nature of qualitative research and the apparent confusion regarding how these diverse approaches are different. Such confusion has led to a mismatch between the methodology-related expectations of evaluators and the methodological description provided by the authors (Conboy et al. 2012; Sarker et al. 2013a). To help make sense of the situation, in this editorial, we offer a critical commentary on the arena of qualitative research in the IS discipline. In viewing the adoption of qualitative research in the IS discipline as an evolutionary process, by highlighting key differences among various types of qualitative inquiry, and by drawing attention to lessons learned from the first-generation of qualitative approaches adopted in the IS discipline, we offer a number of implications for both authors and evaluators of qualitative manuscripts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)752-774
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Case study research
  • Interpretivism
  • IS discipline
  • Methodology evolution
  • Positivism
  • Qualitative research
  • Research genres

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