The qualitative literature review is an established research genre in many academic disciplines, including the information systems (IS) discipline. From an epistemological perspective, qualitative literature reviews can contribute to scientific progress in IS from both the cumulative and the revolutionary perspective and even provide the foundation for research in IS. IS authors have acknowledged the importance of literature reviews by publishing more than 173 qualitative IS literature reviews in the 39 top IS journals since 2000, and these literature reviews have been cited in more than 2,300 research papers published in these journals. The analysis of the IS literature shows that, despite the large bibliometric impact of literature reviews in terms of citations and the large potential of literature reviews, it is still unexplored whether and to what extent the IS discipline has exploited the potential of literature reviews to enhance knowledge through epistemological contributions, e.g., the synthesis of the body of knowledge, the identification of research gaps, or the proposition or test of new theories. Understanding this epistemological issue is important for the IS discipline for three reasons, to which the key objectives of the project are linked: (1) From an analytical perspective, it provides insights with regard to when and how IS literature reviews have (un)successfully contributed to epistemological enhancement. In particular, it allows the comparison of realized contributions with potential contributions as well as the identification of lessons learned. These lessons learned cover examples of how literature reviews have created knowledge (direct epistemological impact) and of how they have enabled other researchers to generate knowledge based on what the literature reviews have achieved (indirect epistemological impact). One objective of the research project is the identification of both the direct and indirect epistemological contributions of IS literature reviews (objective 1: epistemological enhancements through IS literature reviews). (2) From a prescriptive perspective, these lesson leaned can be used to derive recommendations for both i) authors of prospective IS literature reviews in order to increase their epistemological impact and the number of citations and ii) all IS researchers who want to exploit the epistemological advances of literature reviews in order to generate knowledge on their own. The provision of these recommendations is the second objective of the project (objective 2: epistemological guidelines for authors in the IS discipline). (3) From a philosophy of science perspective, no epistemological/knowledge-theoretical basis for the genre of literature reviews exists. A third objective of the project is to contribute to the development of such a theoretical foundation (objective 3: epistemological theory for IS literature reviews).
Contact: Guido Schryen
Project term: April 2017 until September 2021
Funded by DFG