Commentaries on the role of theory

  • Allen S. Lee
  • M. Lynne Markus
  • Ola Henfridsson
  • Deborah R. Compeau
  • Fernando Olivera
  • David Silverman
  • Shirley Gregor
  • Julien Malaurent
  • David Avison

Abstract

Whether a theory is an instance of ‘theory light’ or ‘theory is king’ depends on what is meant by ‘theory’ and, ultimately, ‘science’ in the first place. I offer a classification of science where one dimension is sciences that describe or explain either (1) what exists or has existed or (2) how to create what does not now exist or has not existed before, and the other dimension is sciences that study either (1) the physical world or (2) the world of people and their institutions. The resulting four science categories invite the consideration of different forms of theory based on their different purposes, as well as the consideration that the path to success traveled by theory in one science category is not necessarily generalizable and appropriate to, much less much less replicable by, theory in another science category. I provide the example of an ethnographically based theory that can be seen as ‘theory light’ or ‘theory rich, ‘ or even as an illustration of ‘theory is king, ‘ depending on the science category in which the theory is considered.

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Copyright information

© Journal of Information Technology (JIT) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen S. Lee
    • 1
  • M. Lynne Markus
    • 2
  • Ola Henfridsson
    • 3
  • Deborah R. Compeau
    • 4
  • Fernando Olivera
    • 4
  • David Silverman
    • 5
    • 6
  • Shirley Gregor
  • Julien Malaurent
    • 7
  • David Avison
    • 8
  1. 1.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Bentley UniversityUSA
  3. 3.Warwick Business SchoolUniversity of WarwickUK
  4. 4.Ivey Business SchoolWestern UniversityCanada
  5. 5.London and Business SchoolGoldsmiths’ and King’s CollegeLondonUK
  6. 6.University of Technology SydneyAustralia
  7. 7.ESSEC Business SchoolParisFrance
  8. 8.Department of Information SystemsCity University of Hong KongHong Kong

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