Linda Jo Calloway (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Constance A. Knapp (email@example.com)
School of Computer Science and Information Systems
One Pace Plaza
New York, New York 10038
These studies respond to the expressed need for broader research methods in information systems (see Hirschheim & Klein, 1989; Kaplan & Duchon, 1988; Lee & Kim, 1992). Primarily, research on information systems development tools has focused on the tools themselves and not on the use of the tools in an organizational context (Wynekoop & Conger, 1990). This comparison of two studies is of interest to researchers using qualitative methods to investigate information systems development tool usage in the context of an organization or a development team. The comparison illustrates ways in which grounded theory can be used to analyze and understand interview data.
Studying the context in which information systems development tools are meant to function requires an appropriate research methodology. The two studies illustrate the use of such a methodology. In these studies grounded theory, an ethnographic approach, is used to capture information needed to explicate the interactions between teams and information systems development tools, and organizations and information systems development tools. According to Glaser and Strauss (1967) theories are either deduced from logical assumptions or generated from observation. Grounded theory is a qualitative approach that generates theory from observation. It provides the structure often lacking in other qualitative approaches without sacrificing flexibility or rigor. The resulting theory is an explanation of categories, their properties, and the relationships among them. The results lead to an evolutionary body of knowledge that is grounded in data.
ICASE users from all levels of the organizations were interviewed in the second study. These interviews were used to determine dimensions of the organization as a whole in relation to ICASE implementation. The researcher's interest in ICASE tools was clear to the respondents. The interviewees were chosen to reflect a user profile constructed from an analysis of responses to a mailed questionnaire.
In grounded theory studies, data analysis and the later stages of data reduction operate iteratively. Coding is a process of simultaneously reducing the data by dividing it into units of analysis and coding each unit. The first study used a multiple coding protocol, where mentions could represent more than one concept category. The nature of responses from teams of up to four people during the interview was more realistically captured by a multiple coding protocol. In the second study data were coded as belonging to one category only, since the interviews were one-on-one. Therefore, there was no interleaving of comments.
Granularity of Focus
A comparison of these two studies suggests that grounded theory is useful in interpreting interview information regardless of the granularity of focus. The first study investigated design teams using a software engineering tool. The second study investigated ICASE technology implementation and dimensions of the organization as a whole.
All grounded theory studies use a data coding scheme. Qualitative methods use codes to categorize data rather than to quantify it. Therefore, the number of times an individual comment is categorized is less relevant. Different methods of coding are effective in different contexts. The first study used a multiple coding protocol to capture the interactions among the various team members. Since the comments of different team members relating to different categories were interleaved, single coding these comments would have sacrificed accuracy. However, because the interviews for the second study were primarily one-on-one, single coding was sufficient to indicate the underlying categories.
Method of Data Generation
Grounded theory can be used regardless of the way the data is generated. These two studies generated data differently. The first study generated data using a field experiment. The second study was conducted in a natural setting.
Organizations are often spoken of as having cultures, even though the degree to which organizational culture is the same as societal culture is a matter of debate. However this debate is resolved, it is certainly true that organizations can be treated "as if" they were cultures for the purpose of ethnographic analysis (Morey, 1986). Grounded theory is an appropriate tool for studying organizational cultures (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Martin & Turner, 1986; Orlikowski, 1993; Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Turner, 1983). Cultural dimensions of the interaction of users and tools are revealed by the two studies. For example, the first study reveals that designers develop strong attachments to their tools that they express in highly emotional language. These attitudes, attitude patterns and beliefs that accompany tool usage and systems design are learned. The second study found that ICASE implementation success relies on the interaction between management's understanding of information technology and the information systems development environment. Information systems development complexity also influences success. For example, the degree to which an organization adhered to a systems development methodology prior to the introduction of ICASE emerged as the single most critical factor influencing the implementation of ICASE.
This comparison shows that grounded theory approaches are rich and robust because differences in application can be accommodated. Although these results are promising, further investigation is needed to understand the extent of both the limits and the applicability of grounded theory.
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