Understanding the Philosophical Underpinnings of Software Engineering Research in Information Systems

Dawn G. Gregg, Uday Kulkarni, Ajay S. Vinzé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


The Information Systems (IS) discipline, and related research, focuses on the development, understanding, and use of technology to meet business needs. Technology, in particular "software," is the basis for IS research, making sofware engineering a critical component of research in the IS domain. While the importance of software development is well accepted, what constitutes high quality software engineering research is not well defined. Perhaps this is because some software development clearly is not research and it is hard to distinguish between pure application development, and systems development that pushes the boundaries ofknowledge. Sir Karl Popper argued that the scientific quality of research is not based on its empirical method, but on the nature of the questions asked. Our research suggests that software engineering can meet Popper's criteria for scientific research. Drawing on well-established research philosophies, we propose a software engineering research methodology (SERM) and discuss the utility of this methodology for contributing to and expanding the IS body of knowledge. We also describe the considerations that need to be addressed by SERM to enhance acceptability of software engineering research in IS. Our suggestions are corroborated with a review of current IS software engineering research reported in leading IS journals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-183
Number of pages15
JournalInformation Systems Frontiers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001


  • Information systems research methodology
  • Research philosophy
  • Software engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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