Doctoral Dissertations in Information Systems


Qualitative Research in Information Systems: Doctoral Dissertations in Information Systems

Section Editor: Michael D. Myers

This is a list of doctoral dissertations in Information Systems in which the author has used one or more qualitative research methods. Please note that this list contains a few suggestions only and is not intended to be comprehensive. I encourage you to search Google Scholar and/or some other bibliographic database for more dissertations.

Please send additional references and/or short abstracts of items on this page (maximum 100 words) to the Section Editor at:

[Introduction] [Citations in Information Systems]
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For doctoral students in IS looking to use one or more qualitative research methods in their PhD research it is probably advisable to look at what others have done before. I would welcome additional citations to add to the list below.

This article has been translated into the Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich from Geeks Education.

Citations in Information Systems

Davison, R.M. “An Action Research Perspective of Group Support Systems: How to Improve Meetings in Hong Kong,” Unpublished PhD thesis, City University of Hong Kong, 1998.

A web version of Davison’s PhD thesis is available.

Dhillon, G. “Interpreting the management of information system security,” unpublished Phd thesis, University of London, 1995.

The overall aim of this research is to increase understanding of the issues and concerns in the management of information systems security. The study is conducted by reviewing the analysis, design and management of computer based information systems in two large organizations – a British National Health Service Hospital Trust and a Borough Council. The research methodology adopts an interpretive mode of inquiry. The management of information systems security is evaluated in terms of the business environment, organizational culture, expectations and obligations of different roles, meanings of different actions and the related patterns of behavior. Findings from the two case studies show that an inappropriate analysis, design and management of computer based information systems affects the integrity and wholeness of an organization. As a result, the probability of occurrence of adverse events increases. In such an environment there is a strong likelihood that security measures may either be ignored or are inappropriate to the real needs of an organization. Therefore what is needed is coherence between the computer based information systems and the business environment in which they are embedded.

Hill, G. “A Framework for Valuing the Quality of Customer Information,” Unpublished thesis, the University of Melbourne, 2009.

This thesis addresses a widespread, significant and persistent problem in Information Systems practice: under-investment in the quality of customer information. Many organisations require clear financial models in order to undertake investments in their information systems and related processes. However, there are no widely accepted approaches to rigorously articulating the costs and benefits of potential quality improvements to customer information. This can result in poor quality customer information which impacts on wider organisational goals.
o address this problem, I develop and evaluate a framework for producing financial models of the costs and benefits of customer information quality interventions. These models can be used to select and prioritise from multiple candidate interventions across various customer processes and information resources, and to build a business case for the organisation to make the investment.

This thesis uses critical realism as a philosophical lens for a design science research project that combines qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Kock, N.F. Jr. “The Effects of Asynchronous Groupware on Business Process Improvement.” Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Waikato, New Zealand, 1997.

This research investigates the effects of asynchronous groupware on group-based business process improvement efforts. Thirty-eight business process improvement groups were facilitated in three organisations over four iterations of the action research cycle proposed by Susman and Evered. The asynchronous groupware tool used to support these groups was an e-mail conferencing system.

Kvasny, L. “Problematizing the Digital Divide: Cultural and Social Reproduction in a Community Technology Initiative,” unpublished PhD thesis, Georgia State University, 2002.

Orlikowski, W.J. “Information technology in post- industrial organizations: An exploration of the computer-mediation of production work,” unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, 1988.

Per-Arne Persson. “Bringing Power and Knowledge Together: Information Systems Design for Autonomy and Control in Command Work.” Unpublished PhD thesis, Linköping Studies in Science and Technology, Dissertation No. 639, Linköpings University, SE-581 83 Linköping, Sweden, 2000.

The thesis is an ethnographic study of military command work. It analyses data produced during fieldwork in domestic command post exercises and uses two cases for a closer analysis. Social value and not only rational control thinking is what counts in command work, a kind of design work, when control artifacts such as information systems are designed. Command work is knowledge-intensive, it designs and produces symbols and becomes highly flexible, involving interpretation and negotiation of its content and products. Knowledge and power, expertise and authority, represented by experts and formal leaders, have to be brought together if the work is to be efficient. Autonomy and power become core issues, key concepts being social value, function and visibility. Actors must be visible and make their work visible. Information systems shall support work in various modes and across the organization, contributing to visibility and autonomy. It is likely that such criteria are applicable not only in military contexts but also in other kinds of managerial work.

Rose, J. “Information systems development as action research – soft systems methodology and structuration theory,” Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom, 2000.

Rouse, A. C. “Information Technology Outsourcing Revisited: Success Factors and Risks,” Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 2002.

This thesis investigates success factors, risks and trade offs in IT outsourcing arrangements, and the impact of certain recommended practices on outsourcing success. The post-positivist research had four components: 1) a critical review of 10 years’ literature on IT outsourcing, paying particular attention to the evidence for success and the impact of practices on success; 2) a longitudinal hermeneutic study of the Australian Federal Government’s “Whole of Government” IT outsourcing initiative; 3) qualitative analysis of 16 vendor/purchaser focus groups and 4) statistical analysis of a survey of government and non-government organisations taken from the largest 1000 organisations in Australia.

Sayer, K. “A Critical Discourse on the Rhetoric of Business Process Reengineering,” unpublished doctoral dissertation, Griffith University, Brisbane, 1997.

This is an ethnographic study of the implementation of BPR in a government department in Queensland.

Sonnenwald, D.H. “Communication in Design.” Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Rutgers University, NJ, 1993.

Many design situations include users, designers, and developers who, with their own unique group and individual perspectives, need to interact so that they can come to a working understanding of how the artifact being developed will coexist with and ideally support patterns of work activities, social groups, and personal beliefs. In these situations, design is fundamentally an interactive process that requires communication among users, designers, and developers. However, communication among these groups is often difficult although of paramount importance to design outcomes. Through a qualitative analysis of a house, expert system, and telecommunications network architecture and management system design situation, a descriptive model of design that characterizes communication among users, designers, and developers as they create an artifact was developed. The model describes design phases, roles, themes, and intragroup and intergroup communication networks as they evolved throughout the design process, and characterizes design as a process of “contested collaboration.” It is a first step towards a predictive design model that suggests strategies which may help participants interact more effectively and ultimately improve the quality of design outcomes and the design process.

Wynn, E. “Office conversation as an Information Medium.” Unpublished PhD thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1979.

Yoong, P. “A Grounded Theory of Reflective Facilitation: Making The Transition From Traditional To GSS Facilitation,” Unpublished PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 1996.

Zaugg, Alexandra Daniela. “Why do Consumers Use the Internet for Complaining to the Company? Determinants Explaining the Propensity to Complain Online,” doctoral thesis, Institute of Information System Science, University of Bern, 2009.

Online complaining is said to be an efficient and convenient way of handling complaints for both customers and companies. This research project explains a customer’s propensity to complain online. In the expert interviews, the perspective of customer care managers in the Swiss telecommunications industry and scholars in the field of consumer complaining behaviour has been examined. As a second data source, 126 complaints by letter and 135 online complaints have been analysed. Moreover, a company provided a complaint statistics encompassing 5’616 complaints. Finally, seven interviews with on­line complainants have provided insights into the customer perspective.


“There have actually been a few ‘semiotics and IS’ PhD theses completed at the London School of Economics.” (Gurpreet Dhillon). Some of these are, in alphabetical order:

Albadvi, Amir (1997). Supporting Design Understanding in Evolutionary Prototyping: An Application of Change Theory and Semiotics.

Backhouse, Jim (1991). The Use of Semantic Analysis in the Development of Information Systems.

Dhillon, Gurpreet S. (1995). Interpreting the Management of Information Systems Security.

Ilharco, Fernando M. (2002). Information Technology as Ontology: a Phenomenological Investigation into Information Technology and Strategy In-the-World.

Kitiyadisai, Krisana (1991). Relevance and Information Systems.

Lowe [Cookson], Stefanie (1993). Modelling the Development of the Use of Subject Pronouns.

Marche, M.M. (Sunny) (1991). Measuring Data Model Stability.

Straub, Bernhard (1991). Ideology and Information Systems.

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