Lee et al. (2011) Theorizing in Design Science Research

Authors: Lee, Jong S. and Pries-Heje, Jan and Baskerville, Richard L.


Theory is a central element in research. Due to the importance of theory in research, considerable efforts have been made to better understand the process of theorizing, i.e., development of a theory. A review of the literature in this area suggests that two dominant theorizing approaches are anchored to deductive and inductive reasoning respectively. In contrast, an essential part of theorizing for design may involve abductive reasoning. The purpose of design theory is not to advance declarative logic regarding truth or falseness, but to guide learning and problem solving through the conceptualization of a design artifact. This paper critically examines the process of theorizing for design by developing an idealized design theorizing framework. The framework indicates that theorizing for design operates in two distinct domains: instance and ab- stract. Further, four key theorizing activities are identified in this framework: abstraction, solution search, de-abstraction, and registration. The framework provides grounds for building strong design theories in the design science para- digm by explicating the underlying theorizing process for design.

Citation Jong S. Lee, Jan Pries-Heje, Richard L. Baskerville (2011). Theorizing in Design Science Research. DESRIST 2011, vol. LNCS no. 6629, pp. 1–16. URL

BibTex entry for this article:

BibTex entry for this article:

author = {Lee, Jong S. and Pries-Heje, Jan and Baskerville, Richard L.},
isbn = {978-3-642-20632-0, 978-3-642-20633-7},
journal = {DESRIST 2011},
number = {6629},
pages = {1--16},
title = {{Theorizing in Design Science Research}},
url = {http://www.springerlink.com/index/N76342817756G000.pdf},
volume = {LNCS},
year = {2011}

Key ideas

Design science research holds promise as a paradigm that can establish the relevance of academic information systems (IS) research for IS practice. However, unless such research develops a solid contribution to theory, the paradigm loses its importance to academia. While there is substantial work that describes design science theories, less is known about the process of creating theories in design science. (p. 1)

The purpose of this paper is to describe and illustrate an idealized process for theorizing in design science. Such theorizing processes are important in design science research if the paradigm is to maintain its contribution to the IS academic tradition while simultaneously making significant advances in IS practice. (p. 1)


1. Introduction

The issues of the quality of the theory (as a product) are intertwined with the quality of the theorizing (as a process) because theorizing is critical in producing good theories; and necessar- ily to high quality research that contributes substantial theories. (p. 2)

Theory in design science research is deemed by many authorities to be so important that a distinct class of design theory is widely accepted. These theories have specific components, for example, meta-requirements, a meta-design, a design method, testable product hypotheses, testable process hypotheses, etc. (p. 2)

2. Deductive, Inductive, and Abductive Theorizing

3. Design Theorizing

4. A Design Theorizing Framework

4.1 Theorizing Domains

4.2 Theorizing Activities

  • Abstraction
  • Solution search
  • De-Abstraction
  • Registration

4.3 Theorizing Threshold

4.4 Discussion

5 Conclusion

Tables and figures

Figure 1: Design Theorizing Framework Figure 1 ~ p.6

Table 1: Three Theorizing Approaches Table 1 ~ p.4

Table 2: Examples of Theorizing Thresholds Case Table 2 ~ p.11

Table 2: (continued) Examples of Theorizing Thresholds Case Table 2 ~ p.12


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