How critical realism clarifies validity issues in theory-testing research: Analysis and case

Robert B. Johnston, Stephen P. Smith

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Much discussion of research validity in information systems (IS) draws on the empiricist tradition, which presents an impoverished account of reality, making it difficult to formulate issues of validity that are pertinent to a practitioneroriented discipline. This is particularly true for external validity, which refers to the applicability, or relevance, of research to phenomena in the broader environment of practices, but also for construct and internal validity, which seek to establish rigour in human-centred practical research. Discussions of validity are often supplemented with implicitly realist notions that are not compatible with the espoused empiricism. We argue that critical realism presents a number of insights that profoundly clarify a discussion of validity in practitioner-oriented theory-testing research. We reformulate the notions of theory testing and research validity from the critical realist perspective and illustrate them using a description of a controlled experiment. Important new insights are gained into establishing each kind of validity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationInformation Systems Foundations: The Role of Design Science
    PublisherANU E Press
    Number of pages27
    ISBN (Electronic)9781921666346
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    EventInformation Systems Foundations Workshop 2008 - Canberra, Australia
    Duration: 2 Oct 20083 Oct 2008
    Conference number: 4th


    ConferenceInformation Systems Foundations Workshop 2008
    Abbreviated titleWISF 2008

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