IS6000 – Seminar 1
Research Methods for the IS Manager
Introductions – Me!
• In HK since 1991; Travels in 64 countries.
• Teaching non-technical IS courses to MSc and
• Research involves China-focused
– knowledge sharing in SMEs
– virtual and distributed work
– IT-enabled organisational change
• Web http://www.is.cityu.edu.hk/staff/isrobert
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Research Background
– Varied from none to quite a lot
– Many on Economic/Financial topics
– Mostly quantitative and mathematical
– Some literature search, surveys, interviews
– Some programming tasks
– No one mentioned theory or ethics
2. Research ethics
3. Identifying research problems and Undertaking a
4. Process of conducting research
5. Discussion Class
6. Theory in IS Research
7. Research Methods I - Qualitative
8. Research Methods II – Case Studies
9. Research Methods III – Quantitative
10. Discussion Class
11. Putting it all Together & Life as a Researcher
• Course Website
• These notes are not comprehensive, i.e. if
you come to class, you will hear, see and do
many things that are not visible in the
• So please do come to class. On time if
possible, but late is better than never.
• I expect that you will engage with the learning
– Participation and interaction
– Listen, reflect, challenge and criticise (constructively)
• Each class will have
– Opportunities for interaction, discussion, debate, as well
as your own examples
– White time -
• I will assess your individual participation in each
Assessment Patterns & Grading
• Coursework – 60%
– Team Project (5-6 person teams)
• In Class Discussion – 40%
– Minimum 70% attendance (9 classes) is required.
– If you cannot come to a class, please let me know in
• Note 1: Passing is optional!
• Note 2: Please do not plagiarise – if you do, you
• A: Excellent
– Strong evidence of original thinking, analysis & synthesis;
extensive knowledge base
• B: Good
– Good awareness of the importance of the subject; some
analytic ability; reasonable understanding of issues & literature
• C: Adequate
– Understanding is reasonable, but much room for improvement
• D: Marginal, minimal familiarity with the subject
• F: Very weak
• I developed IS6000 because
– Many of our MSc students don’t seem to
have a good idea how to do research
– Most courses include mini-research
– Employers appreciate research skills
• IS6000 complements
– IS5313, IS5743, IS6600, IS6913, IS6921
Course Intended Learning Outcomes
• Explain the nature of current IS research in
the organisational context.
• Describe how current IS research is applied in
• Apply appropriate research methodologies to
solve organisational IS research problems
• Undertake a small-scale and organisationally
relevant IS research project .
Why Do Research?
• So as to understand phenomena
– Explain what is happening in the world
– Make sense of our experiences as
individuals and in society
– Analyse issues before reaching a decision
– Predict what may lead to success
• If you want to buy a car, flat, phone, etc.
– You probably do some research
• Identify features of the product
• Collect data (facts)
• Talk to others
• Analyse & Compare with budget
• Reach a decision
• Keep evaluating and comparing experience with
expectation – research never stops!
– You want to reach the right decision so as to
spend your money wisely
– You are following a process – a research process
• Find a problem
– If there is no problem, don’t do it!
• Literature Review
• Design the Study
– Including method and theory
• Collect and then Analyse Data
• Discuss your findings and Write up
• Companies do similar things
• So do consultants
• For critical decisions, it is important that we
investigate carefully and deeply
• If not, how can we be (reasonably) sure of
the accuracy or appropriateness of the
• Is this just a matter of common sense or
general knowledge? Or,…?
How To Do Research?!
• That is what IS6000 is all about
– You can’t just pick up or hear ‘facts’
– Instead, you must extract them from the
mess of reality, and then
• Observe, measure, compare with others,
– That requires careful processes – which we
call research methods
Research and Prejudice
• It is very easy to rely on what you
already know (or think you know) – and
not to bother with research at all
• Assumptions, beliefs, values, culture
can influence our thinking
• But good research is usually value-free
– unbiased, unprejudiced, neutral
So, a Good Researcher Should Be
• Focused on the research problem
– about research design and data collection
– about different methods and theories
• Ethical in conduct
• Thoughtful and Reflective
• Persuasive in arguments and presentation
Characteristics of Good Research
• Need a real & interesting research problem
– Not something obvious. Not something useless.
– If not, then don’t bother to go further!
• Carefully conducted
– According to the principles of the method
– All data is correct (not fabricated)
– Free of prejudice or assumptions
– To the people ‘who care’ about the outcomes
But Who Cares About the Quality of
• Who are the stakeholders?
– Society in general?
– Journals, magazines, newspapers, books
• And their readers, editors, publishers
• Mercedes Benz would like to find out
– (i) if their Facebook page creates a positive
image for the brand and so
– (ii) if people are more likely to buy a
Mercedes after ‘liking’ the page.
• What is the impact of the FB page on
customer intention to buy?
• Does this question capture the essence
of the Business Problem?
• Is anything missing?
• Is ‘intention’ the same as ‘more likely to
• Invite potential buyers to visit the FB
page and then survey their attitude
• Is that going to be enough?
• Is their attitude a strong enough
indicator of their intention to buy, or
their willingness to buy?
• University Students
– E.g. BBA E-Commerce or MSc EBKM!
• Is this a good sample? Yes? No?
• Advantages and disadvantages of this
• “The FB page has a significant impact
on the attitude of the potential buyer –
who is much more likely to buy”.
• But does this make sense?
• Can Medcedes Benz rely on the results?
• Is there anything misleading here?
A Better Way
• Is there a better way of doing this
• Better questions, methods, data
Organisational Research Topic
• I am interested in the Decision Styles of
• This is not well reported in the literature
• It seems that this is a difficult topic to study
• RQ1: How do Senior Executives Make
• RQ2: What technologies do they rely on?
Research by Proxy
• I can’t find any executives. so I ask my MSc students
to pretend to be executives and give them some
sample ‘executive’ problems to solve – using
• I carefully control the way technology is used in
• Finally I use a survey to assess the ‘executives’ ’
– But, can I generalise my findings to real executives?
– Can anyone really use the outcomes of this research?
– Did we learn anything about executive decision styles?
Theories, Methods & Data
• In later classes, we will look at different
• And how they can help us
• So as to see how problems can be tackled in
– Types and Sources of Data
• So as to ensure that we get it right!
• Very often, both the researcher and the organisation
(or client) share an interest in research outcomes
• So, both parties need to agree on what they are
looking for, on what to do.
• The researcher may need access to people, data,
• The researcher also needs to be independent – not
subject to pressure from the client
• Maybe the client doesn’t like the findings or prefers a
Differing Interpretations - Styles
• There may be multiple interpretations of findings
– And each one is valid given certain conditions or
• If I ask a question, I may get multiple answers
– Can they all be correct?
• In research there are few 100% correct answers
– Research quality depends on
• Persuasive argument as well as good data
• Imagination and creativity in research design
• Appropriate use of methods (and theory)
Views of the World Vary
• Consider the above Mercedes Benz problem
• If I ask academics from different disciplines
about a good research design to investigate
the problem, I will get different answers
• Each person has a different view of the
world, different ideology, interests, expertise,
– Finance, Accounting, Organisational Behaviour,
Strategic Management, eMarketing, …
• A man and his son are involved in a car
accident. The man is killed and the boy,
seriously injured, is taken to hospital. The
surgeon in the hospital looks at the boy and
says “I am sorry, but I cannot treat this boy
as he is my son”. (adapted from Selltiz et al., 1976).
• Does this make sense? Is something wrong here?
• Is there something in the story that violates your pre-
Subconscious Ideologies and Beliefs
• We have subconscious ideologies and beliefs.
Challenging these beliefs can be very uncomfortable.
• For example, we have strong beliefs about the roles
of men and women in society, about the jobs that
they can and cannot do.
• Often these are a form of prejudice or bias.
• Can you think of any that we might encounter in the
IS, EB or KM context?
• Assumptions about good interface design, about
colours, about programmers or managers, about
leadership style, about the best way to do anything?
• A few years ago, I presented a seminar on ‘E-
Commerce in China’ at CityU’s IS Department.
• The research had been done with a Chinese
colleague and involved data collected from
hundreds of Chinese e-consumers.
• Based on our data, we asserted that Chinese e-
consumers prefer to distrust others.
• The reason is that it is safer to distrust, not to
trust, so as to protect your personal interests.
• This is in part related to culture, but also to the
lack of legal protection for customers of
The Audience’s Reaction
• The non-Chinese members of the
audience thought that this was
interesting – as a research finding
• The Chinese members of my audience
were outraged, saying:
– “You are insulting all Chinese people”
– “This is simply not true”
• Would you be outraged?
A Reasonable Reaction?
• Did I really insult all Chinese people?
– Or is that just their interpretation?
• Based on their over-sensitivity, or subconscious
ideological rejection of my finding
• If the seminar was presented by my
Chinese co-author, would the audience
react in the same way?
– Why does this matter?
• With your assumptions and assertions
• With your interpretations and the potential
• We need to look for cause and effect
relationships, not irrational beliefs.
• Researchers should not have thin skins!
– Or they will suffer – because it is very normal that
people will disagree with your findings when they
counter their pre-formed judgements.
Last Example for Today
• By email, you receive a letter that tells
you that you must forward this email to
10 or 100 other people, otherwise you
will have bad luck today!
• Will you forward it – to avoid the bad
• … probably do forward the email
– just in case!
• But there is no logical cause-and-effect
relationship between not forwarding an email
and receiving bad luck.
• It is an emotional reaction, not a matter of
• Researchers usually pay more attention to
rational logic, not irrational emotion.
Key Lessons for Today
• Research opportunities are everywhere
• Good research processes will be more
likely to produce good research
• Good research requires time and care