Research Design for Information Systems and Digital Innovation

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Susan Scott MAR 4.30


This course is compulsory on the MPhil/PhD in Management - Information Systems and Innovation. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Students from related PhD programmes who are interested in learning about research design may be able to join the course with the teacher's permission.

Course content

The course introduces students on the MPhil/PhD in Management – Information Systems and Innovation to theoretical and practical foundations of social science research design. It is concerned with core interdisciplinary principles of research design that span disciplinary and methodological traditions. Grounded in examples from Information Systems research, the course is centred on exploring principles of research design for different types of research questions. The course will provide a platform for students to consider a range of research design options and methodological approaches.

It is intended to form part of the academic training of doctoral students, enabling them to become more critical producers of research, able to articulate the various rationales, strengths, weaknesses, and trade-offs entailed in research design choices. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with multiple research design options and be better equipped to embark on their own research projects. It is not a “methods” course per se but will enable students to navigate important design considerations involved in adopting specific approaches using different forms of data in their research. By studying this course, students will understand how to produce research that will stand up to critical review as well as becoming more informed reviewers of research produced by others.

The first part of the course explores core concepts of research design including an examination of knowledge claims in social science and more particularly how these have emerged in different kinds of information systems research (positivism, realism, constructivism). In each case, there will be references to information systems and digital innovation research with examples of how different epistemological stances have shaped the major contributions in our field of study.

This content is taught in the spirit of methodological pluralism with the assumption that how we do research ultimately depends on the nature of the particular research question and the type of data that are available. We treat research design as following through on a commitment to a carefully articulated methodological approach in the acknowledgement that the choices made in crafting this design bring strengths, weaknesses, and trade-offs. As the course progresses, we examine how, when, where, and why such choices emerge in the planning and doing of research with the goal of better understanding the consequence of research design decisions. At every stage, students will engage with key texts in the history of the IS feidl and the research designs that such texts illustrate.


This course is delivered through seminars across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. Teaching hours will be commensurate with a usual full unit taught masters course. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. 

Indicative reading

Bijker, W., Hughes, T., and Pinch, T. (eds.). 1987. The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cecez-Kecmanovic, D., Galliers, R. D., Henfridsson, O., Newell, S., & Vidgen, R. (2014). The sociomateriality of information systems: current status, future directions, MIS Quarterly, 38(3), 809-830. 

Crotty, M. 2003. The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process. London: Sage. Chapter 1.

Dunleavy, P. (2011). Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral thesis or dissertation. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hinings, B., Gegenhuber, T. and Greenwood, R. (2018). Digital innovation and transformation: An institutional perspective. Information and Organization. 28, 52-61.

Majchrzak, A. Markus, M.L., Wareham, J. (2016). Designing for Digital Transformation: Lessons for Information Systems Research from the Study of ICT and Societal Challenges. MIS Quarterly, 40(2): 267-277.

Nambisan, S., Lyytinen, K., Majchrzak, A., Song, M. (2017). Digital innovation management: Reinventing innovation management research in a digital world. MIS Quarterly, 41(1): 223-238.

Orlikowski, W. J., & Iacono, C. S. (2001). Research commentary: Desperately seeking the “IT” in IT research—A call to theorizing the IT artifact. Information Systems Research, 12(2), 121-134.

Yoo Y, Henfridsson O, Lyytinen K. (2010b). The new organizing logic of digital innovation: An agenda for information systems research. Information Systems Research, 21(4): 724–735.

Zuboff, S. (1988). In the Age of the Smart Machine. New York: Basic Books.


Essay (100%, 7000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Management

Total students 2021/22: 3

Average class size 2021/22: 3

Value: One Unit

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Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication