How critical realism clarifies validity issues in information systems theory-testing research

Stephen P. Smith, Robert B. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Validity is an enduring theme in the information systems (IS) domain. However, because much of that discussion draws, at least nominally, on an Empiricist orientation, formulating issues of validity in a way that is pertinent to a practice-oriented discipline has been difficult. This is particularly true for external validity, which refers to the applicability, or relevance, of research to phenomena in the broader environment of practice, but also for measurement, ecological, and internal validity, all of which are needed to establish rigor in human-centred practical research. We argue that critical realism presents a number of insights that profoundly clarify a discussion of validity in practice-oriented theory-testing research. We reformulate the notions of theory testing and research validity from the critical realist perspective and illustrate new insights gained using a discussion of a controlled experiment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5 - 28
Number of pages24
JournalScandinavian Journal of Information Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Critical realism
  • Validity
  • hypothesis-testing
  • theory

Cite this