IS8004(M) * Seminar 4 - Department of Information Systems

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IS8004 – Seminar 4
Proposal Initiation
Issues in the Field
and Anthropology
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Syllabus Requirement
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Proposal Development (30%): Each student is
required to develop a research proposal founded on
a qualitative research methodology, demonstrating
their ability to solve research problems.
The Time to Think is Now
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Developing a good proposal takes time
You need time to reflect, to think, to create, to
imagine
What kind of research question, which method,
what data?
What are the hoped-for outcomes?
Please start to do this now.
In week 8, you will need to make a 10-minute
presentation of your initial proposal ideas
Learning Objectives Today
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To explore issues associated with doing field
research
This is primarily for qualitative research, though
it applies to quantitative as well
To try and ensure that things don’t go wrong!
Origins
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Field research has a long history in cultural
anthropology
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Where the researcher goes to live with a culturally
interesting group of people and learn their way of
life
Two ‘nice’ human examples:
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Philippe Descola’s account of life in the Ecuadorean jungle
with the Achuar from 1976-78
Robert Klitzman’s account of kuru, cannibalism and mad
cow disease in Papua New Guinea in 1972
Alternatively
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Jane Goodall’s research into Chimpanzee
behaviour in Gombe forest, Tanzania
Birute Galdikas’ research into Orang-Utan
behaviour in Indonesia
Similar work with elephants, macaques,
baboons, bonobos, etc.
This is zoology, not anthropology – but it is still
field research
In Information Systems
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Anthropology is also an accepted research
method – and most field research in IS
involves some aspect of anthropological
technique
Avison and Myers (1995)
Klein and Myers (2000)
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A Set of Principles for Conducting and Evaluating
Interpretive Field Studies in Information Systems,
MISQ.
Issues in Field Research
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Contacting Organisations
Respecting and Working with Organisations
Studying and Observing Organisations
Reporting and Publishing Findings
Legal and Ethical Issues
Contacting Organisations 1
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You have your research question, you think
you know which method (but you might change
your mind later), you know (perhaps) what kind
of data you want
Now you have to find an organisation where
you can try out your ideas, collect the data, see
if your plans are doing to work
Contacting Organisations 2
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Where do you start?
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Most PhD students don’t have very good
contacts in organisations
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This is a huge problem!
Or at least they think they don’t
But there are some routes to explore… which
leverage your (or your family’s) guanxi.
Contacting Organisations 3
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Who do you know?
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Friends, classmates?
Family connections?
Supervisor connections
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Who could you know?
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Be careful. The supervisor will not want to trouble his
connections with ‘nonsense’ so you must plan carefully
Who could be available and how could you get to
meet them?
Contacting Organisations 4
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EMBA, MBA and DBA students can be a good
source of contacts
Find out who is teaching these people and ask
if you can take 10 minutes of their class time to
talk to them
You have 10 minutes to sell your ideas – and
yourself.
Contacting Organisations 5
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Sell???
These people are busy and have short term thinking
They might be interested – can you persuade them?
What would motivate them to be interested?
Think of what value you can create for them
So, it is not just that you want to study something, but
you also want to contribute something to them
This means that when they work with you, then they
get something out of you as well.
Contacting Organisations 6
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If none of these work, then you can try cold calling – by
phone, letter, email
You still have to sell yourself and your ideas
You need to tell them enough so that they think it is
worthwhile to spend 30 mins of their time in a face-toface meeting with you
If they like your ideas, the 30 mins can be extended. If
not, it will be 5 minutes and polite ‘no thank you’.
Cold calling has low success rates.
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When I did my PhD, I sent 100 letters to get one +ve reply
Perhaps I did not sell myself very well?
Respecting and Working With
Organisations 1
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Once you are in, you don’t want to be asked to leave!
So, you must follow their rules, procedures and
expectations
If a meeting is scheduled at 0900, plan to be there at
0845.
If a meeting is cancelled, don’t complain – just set up
another time.
Remember, they are the busy business people. You
are not.
Respecting and Working With
Organisations 2
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You need to set up protocols for how you will work with
the organisation
You need to have a contact person – ideally a senior
person
There has to be an agreement (NDA) between both
parties about how to work.
This agreement may be formal or informal, signed or
not.
The agreement should cover issues like access to
people, data, meetings, documents – and also how you
can report these things
Respecting and Working With
Organisations 3
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It is probably better to keep a low profile, to be
unobtrusive, not to get in the way, not to obstruct
You are there to learn, to observe, to collect data – but
not to criticise or offer too many opinions – unless they
ask you explicitly
You will get better quality data if people forget that you
are a researcher – and behave normally.
So don’t draw too much attention to yourself. Blend in,
become invisible as an outsider.
Studying and Observing
Organisations 1
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You need to keep your research questions in
mind all the time
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You need to restrict yourself to what you
agreed to with the organisation
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And collect data that is going to help you to answer
those questions
If you want to do something different, you need
permission
Studying and Observing
Organisations 2
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You need to respect the privacy of individual
employees
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Yes, feel free to write down what they say, but try to
disguise their identities
If they give you private or confidential data, use it
carefully
You will have to be sure that you do not violate the
organisation’s or individual’s confidentiality
Studying and Observing
Organisations 3
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You need to build up a body of evidence that will
answer your research questions
This may take some time – so don’t give up
Be alert to unexpected findings
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Try to keep an open mind at all times
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That challenge existing theory
That challenge your preconceived ideas
That do not fit what you thought you would find
Don’t jump to conclusions
Studying and Observing
Organisations 4
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Keep very careful notes of what you do
It is very easy to forget a conversation
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Every day, write up notes in detail
You may need to go back to someone to ask a
question to clarify a situation
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and then it is lost
Your notes will help you to do that – if you have
them
Studying and Observing
Organisations 5
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Reflect on theory as you go
Does what you are observing
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Is there a need for a new theory
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Fit, violate, extend the theory?
Yes, even though this is not your intended
contribution, you may identify the opportunity to
develop a new theory
Studying and Observing
Organisations 6
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Serendipity!
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You may have planned 1-2 papers, but there
could be more
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Be aware of the possibilities offered by unexpected,
unsought findings
We will discuss this more in a later class
Remember, imagination is the limit of
possibility
7 Principles for Interpretive
(Hermeneutic) IS Research
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The fundamental principle of the hermeneutic
circle
The principle of contextualisation
The principle of interaction between the
researcher and subjects
The principle of abstraction and generalisation
The principle of dialogical reasoning
The principle of multiple interpretations
The principle of suspicion
The Fundamental Principle of the
Hermeneutic Circle
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All human understanding comes from iterating
between the independent meaning of the parts,
and the whole.
Each data item has meaning independently,
yet each data item also contributes to the
whole picture.
We must iterate continually until we have a well
developed and justified understanding
The Principle of Contextualisation
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It is necessary to engage in a critical reflection
on the social and historical background of the
research context
The audience must be able to see how the
current situation has evolved over time
Which old ideas are still influencing today’s
practices? Or are still embedded in work
routines?
The Principle of Interaction between the
Researcher and Subjects
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Critical reflection on the way in which the
research materials (data, interviews, etc.) were
socially constructed through the interaction
between the researcher and the subjects
By questioning your assumptions, by
recognising your biases, so you may achieve a
better understanding of the world in which the
subjects live
The Principle of Abstraction and
Generalisation
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It is necessary to relate the idiographic details
obtained through the data collection and
interpretation to theoretical and general
concepts that explain human behaviour
It is conventional to relate to existing theory,
but in the case of grounded theory, a new
theory may be developed.
The Principle of Dialogical
Reasoning
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It is necessary to be sensitive to any
discrepancies that may arise between the
theoretical preconceptions guiding the
research design and the actual findings (data).
Thus, the researcher must engage in a
dialogue between the theory and the data
If discrepancies arise, then the theory may
have to change or be reinformed
The Principle of Multiple
Interpretations
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There may be differences of interpretation
about events between multiple data subjects /
participants
This may happen even when the participants
are describing the same event as they may see
it differently
For instance, different employees may have
different expectations for a project
The Principle of Suspicion
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It is necessary to be sensitive to the biases and
even systematic distortions introduced by
participants in their narratives
All participants are likely to be biased
However, some may deliberately introduce
facetious, outlandish or sarcastic remarks that
may be fruitful for metaphorical analysis, but
should not be taken literally.
Reporting and Publishing Findings 1
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When you first talk to an organisation, you have to
make it clear that as an academic, you need to publish
your findings
However, you can anonymise the company (change the
name) if they prefer that
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You need to represent your findings carefully
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Some companies like to be identified since the project may
gain them positive publicity
So that you tell the truth about what you found
You do not distort the facts to suit your needs
This is why you must document your notes and thoughts
carefully and continually
Reporting and Publishing Findings 2
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The organisation might object to what you wrote – and
might ask for it to be changed
Well, that could be reasonable. Now you need to
negotiate.
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Can you aggregate more?
Can you anonymise more?
Can you modify a bit – but not too much?
But you can avoid this situation by ensuring that the
organisation knows what is going on all the time
Legal and Ethical Issues 1
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Privacy
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Data subjects have the right to privacy
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Confidentiality
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CityU code of research conduct + HK data privacy laws
Always get explicit approval from the people described in the data
– before you collect / analyse it
The organisation has a legitimate right to protect its
information and knowledge assets
So, you can publish, but you must clear content with the
organisation first
Legal and Ethical Issues 2
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NDA – Non Disclosure Agreements are
common – and legally binding
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You should keep all data secure
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They can sue you for breach of contract if you
knowingly violate the agreement
Restricted access to project members
Do not give to unauthorised others
Destroy when no longer needed
References
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Avison, D.E. and Myers, M.D. (1995) Information Systems and
Anthropology: An Anthropological Perspective on IT and
Organizational Culture, IT & People, 8, 3, 43-56.
Descola, P. (1996) The Spears of Twilight (originally in French as
Les Lances du Crépuscule).
Galdikas, B.M.F. (1994) Reflections of Eden
Goodall, J. (1971) In the Shadow of Man
Klitzman, R. (2001) The Trembling Mountain: Kuru, Cannibalism
and Mad Cow Disease.
Klein, H.K. and Myers, M.D. (2000) A Set of Principles for
Conducting and Evaluating Interpretive Field Research in
Information Systems, MIS Quarterly, 23, 1, 67-94

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