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					    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
  PhD students
• 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 isrobert@cityu.edu.hk

• 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

Topic Coverage
 1. Introduction
 2. Research ethics
 3. Identifying research problems and Undertaking a
       literature review
 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
 12&13. Presentations


• Course Website
  – http://www.is.cityu.edu.hk/staff/isrobert/IS6000.htm
• 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.
  Learning Styles

• 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
  will fail!

Grading Definitions
• 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
  organisational contexts.
• 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

For Example
• 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
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

Research Matters
• 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
• Systematic
  – about research design and data collection
• Knowledgeable
  – 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)
• Unbiased
  – Free of prejudice or assumptions
• Relevant
  – To the people ‘who care’ about the outcomes

But Who Cares About the Quality of
• Who are the stakeholders?
  – Organisations?
  – Government?
  – Employees?
  – Society in general?
  – Journals, magazines, newspapers, books
    • And their readers, editors, publishers

Business Problem
• 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.

Research Question
• 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
Research Method
• Invite potential buyers to visit the FB
  page and then survey their attitude
  towards buying.

• Is that going to be enough?
• Is their attitude a strong enough
  indicator of their intention to buy, or
  their willingness to buy?

Data Sample
• 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
  Senior Executives
• 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
  decision support.
• Finally I use a survey to assess the ‘executives’ ’
  decision styles.
   – 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
  – Theories
     • And how they can help us
  – Methods
     • So as to see how problems can be tackled in
       different ways
  – Types and Sources of Data
     • So as to ensure that we get it right!

Shared Responsibilities
• 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,
  meetings, cases
• 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
  different outcome

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, …

Another Example
• 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-
  conceived notions?

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?
Another Example
• 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
  websites.                                             34
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?

Be Careful!
• With your assumptions and assertions
• With your interpretations and the potential
  for misinterpretations.
• 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

Most People…
• … 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
  reasonable judgement.
• 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


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