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Journal articles (2014), Journal of Information Technology, 29, pp. 327-336

Is Theory King?: Questioning the Theory Fetish in Information Systems

This paper suggests that there is too much emphasis on the requirement for theory use and theory building in qualitative research published in our leading journals. We discuss six concerns that we have that relate to this high status of theory in such papers. We argue for what we refer to as ‘theory light’ papers where theory plays no significant part in the paper and the contribution lies elsewhere, for example, new arguments, facts, patterns or relationships. Some examples of theory light papers (and research) are provided from other disciplines and one exemplar information systems paper is studied in depth. We see these papers as equally worthy as those which demonstrate the applicability and predictive qualities of theory use as well as the potential of theory building. We propose a list of 10 questions that authors and reviewers might ask themselves when writing or reviewing such theory light papers. The more demanding role of the reader is also discussed along with the requirement for editorial teams to adapt. We suggest that the requirement for a contribution to theory would be replaced with the requirement that any journal paper has a high potential for stimulating research that will impact on information systems theory and/or practice.

AVISON, D. and MALAURENT, J. (2014). Is Theory King?: Questioning the Theory Fetish in Information Systems. Journal of Information Technology, 29, pp. 327-336.