Date of Award

1-1-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

Management Information Systems

Faculty

Faculty of Business and Public Management

First Advisor

Dr Mark Williams

Abstract

The major contribution of the thesis is to highlight the Importance of philosophical awareness in progressing research. It argues against the use of a priori theory in research and proposes that an understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of particular research approaches can provide the opportunity to be ones own guide and to work out critically one's own conception of the world. It suggests that the adoption of critical realism as the underlying philosophical base can support research in a useful and practical manner. The thesis introduces the philosophy of critical realism and uses its underlabouring role to provide new Insights into the Information systems arena in general and the case example In particular. The thesis specifically concentrates on a comparison between interpretlivism and critical realism, highlighting the differing approaches both have to research. The thesis provides an Illustrative case example examining the development of an organisation's first Information Business Plan and the subsequent outsourcing of the IS Department. The study was originally targeted at describing the Implementation of the organisation's first Information business plan but this changed as the information business plan Implementation was overtaken by events. It is argued that political directives from above were the major reason behind the organizational move to outsource all non-core activities, Including IS. The thesis documents a dissatisfaction with the original interpretivist approach on which the case Investigation was based and uses the case example to highlight the thesis arguments. Critical realism provides a promising analytical and explanatory framework for examining the Interplay between structure and agency within organizations. It Involves both Interpretive and explanatory understanding unified In "the analysis of structural relations, and the ways In which these affect, and are affected by, the subjective meanings of human beings" (Keat and Urry, 1982, p. 174). This thesis will reflect these understandings and emphases.

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