Case Studies in Information Systems

The course will be about qualitative research, primarily but not limited to case research, as practiced in the Information Systems (IS) discipline. In the first session, we will see the different forms of qualitative research published in the IS literature, and talk about implications for us as researchers and as reviewers. Next, we will look at papers published (primarily) in four “mainstream” journals (MISQ, ISR, JAIS, and JMIS) and examine the characteristics of “successful” papers. The analysis of the papers will be led by assigned participants. In the final session, we will continue with our analysis of the 12 papers, and will summarize the key lessons learned in the workshop, focusing on data collection, data analysis, theorizing, and representation for journal publication.

Preliminary schedule and location

Wed September 25th 10.00 am - 4.30 pm  C331 The Main Building Aalto University School of Business
Thu September 26th 9.00 am - 3.00 pm C331 The Main Building Aalto University School of Business


Professor Suprateek Sarker,  University of Virginia, USA

Organizer: Professor Matti Rossi Aalto University

Day 1

10:00 Overview of Qualitative Research in IS
11.00 Break
11.15 Continuation/Discussion 
12:15 Lunch
13:00 Analysis of published case research in IS
15.00 Break
15.15 Analysis of published case research in IS

Day 2

09:00 Analysis of published case research in IS
10:30 Break
10:45 Analysis of published case research in IS
12:00 Summary of  Lessons learned followed by Individul Consultation

Background Readings 

Please try to read or at least browse through background readings marked with ‘*”. 

1.       Dubé, L., and Paré, G. (2003). "Rigor in Information Systems Positivist Case Research: Current Practices, Trends, and Recommendations," MIS Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 597-636. *

2.       Golden-Biddle, K. and Locke, K. (1993), "Appealing Work: An Investigation of How Ethnographic Texts Convince," Organization Science, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 595-616.

3.       Klein, H. K. and Myers, M. D. (1999), "A Set of Principles for Conducting and Evaluating Interpretive Field Studies in Information Systems," MIS Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 67-88.  *

4.       Lee, A. S. (1989), "A Scientific Methodology for MIS Case Studies," MIS Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 33-50.  *

5.       Lee, A. S. and Baskerville, R. L. (2012). "Conceptualizing Generalizability: New Contribution and a Reply," MIS Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp.749-761.

6.       Myers, M. D. and Newman, M. (2007), "The Qualitative Interview in IS Research: Examining the Craft," Information and Organization, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 2–26. *

7.       Sarker, S., Lau, F., and Sahay, S. (2001), "Using an Adapted Grounded Theory Approach for Inductive Theory Building about Virtual Team Development," Database for Advances in Information Systems, Vol. 32, No. 1, pp.38-56.  *

8.       Urquhart C., Lehmann, H., and Myers, M. D. (2010) "Putting the 'theory' back into grounded theory: guidelines for grounded theory studies in information systems" Information Systems Journal, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 357-381. *

9.       Vaast, E., and Walsham, G. (2013) “Grounded theorizing for electronically mediated social contexts,” European Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 22, pp. 9-25.

10.   Walsham, G. (2006), "Doing Interpretive Research," European Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 320–330.  *

11.   Walsham, G. (1995). “Interpretive case research in IS: Nature and Method,” European Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 4, pp. 74-81. *

12.   Wynn, D. and Williams, C K. (2012) "Principles for Conducting Critical Realist Case Study Research in Information Systems," MIS Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2012, pp.787-810. 

Reading List for Analysis & Discussion


1.       Chakraborty, S., Sarker, S., and Sarker, S. 2010.  “Understanding the Process of Requirements Elicitation: A Grounded Approach,” Journal of the AIS (11: 4), pp. 212-249.

2.       Dibbern, J., Winkler, J., and Heinzl, A. 2008. “Explaining variations in client extra costs between software projects offshored to India,” MIS Quarterly (32:2), pp. 333-366.

3.       Levina, N. and Vaast, E. 2008. “Innovating or Doing As Told? Status Differences and Overlapping Boundaries in Offshore Collaboration,” MIS Quarterly 32(2), 307-332.

4.       Olsson, H. H., Ó Conchúir, E., Ågerfalk, P. J., and Fitzgerald, B. 2008. “Two-stage offshoring: an investigation of the Irish Bridge,” MIS Quarterly (32:2), pp. 257-279.

5.       Rivard, S., Lapointe, L., and Kappos, A. 2011. “An Organizational Culture-Based Theory of Clinical Information Systems Implementation in Hospitals,” Journal of the Association for Information Systems (12:2), p. 3.

6.       Sambamurthy, V., and Zmud, R. 1999. “Arrangements for Information Technology Governance: A Theory of Multiple Contingencies,” MIS Quarterly (23:2), pp. 261-290.

7.       Sarker, S., Sarker, S., and Sidorova, A. 2006. “Understanding business process change failure: An actor-network perspective,” Journal of Management Information Systems (23:1), pp. 51–86.

8.       Sarker, S., and Sarker, S. 2009. “Exploring agility in distributed information systems development teams: An interpretive study in an offshoring context,” Information Systems Research (20:3), pp. 440–461.

9.       Strong, D. M., and Volkoff, O. 2010. “Understanding organization-enterprise system fit: a path to theorizing the information technology artifact,” MIS Quarterly (34:4), pp. 731–756.

10.   Trauth, E.M., Jessup, L. 2000. "Understanding Computer-mediated Discussions: Positivist and Interpretive Analyses of Group Support System Use." MIS Quarterly, 24, 43-79. 

11.   Vaast, E. Davidson, E. J., and Mattson, T.  “Talking about Technology: The Emergence of a New Actor Category through New Media,” MIS Quarterly, forthcoming. 

12.   Walsham, G., and Sahay, S. 1999. “GIS for district-level administration in India: problems and opportunities,” MIS Quarterly (23:1), pp. 39–65.

Each participant should read at least 6 of the articles in the “Reading List for Analysis & Discussion” prior to the start of the course. Of course, if you are able to read all of the articles, that would be great, and you will likely gain more from the workshop. Please pay special attention to the structure of the paper and the methodological approach.

In particular, for each paper, participants should focus on the following aspects of the papers they read:

·         The type of qualitative research approach used (ethnography, interpretive case study, positivist case study, etc.)

·         The sampling, data collection, and data analysis strategies used, how transparent the process was and what the authors did to enhance transparency?

·         What criteria, implicit or explicit, were used by authors to demonstrate the quality of the study?

·         Whether the criteria used were appropriate?

·         The number and nature of cases and the different data sources

·         How the case narrative and analysis/interpretation was presented -- dry, dramatic/evocative

·         What was the role of theory?

·         Whether there was a process or variance approach used?

·         Whether IT was forgotten in the social analysis? How was the role of IT incorporated?

·         How were the findings/contributions presented?


Please prepare notes on each paper and be prepared to discuss your views on the above issues


This seminar is free-of-charge for member organization's staff and their PhD-students. For others the participation fee is 750 €. The participation fee includes access to the event and the event materials. Lunch and dinner are not included.


Doctoral students participating in the seminar can obtain two (2) credit points. This requires participating on both days and completing the assignments given at the seminar.