Nunamaker et al. (1991) Systems Development in Information Systems Research


In this paper, the use of systems development as a methodology in information systems (IS) research is described and defended. A framework to explain the nature of systems development as a research methodology in is research is proposed. Use of this methodology in the engineering field in general is compared with its use specifically in computer science and computer engineering. An integrated program for conducting is research that incorporates theory building, systems development, experimentation, and observation is proposed. Progress in several application domains is reviewed to provide a basis upon which to argue that systems development is a valid research methodology. A systems development research process is presented from a methodological perspective. Software engineering, which is the basic method of applying the systems development research methodology, is then discussed. It is the authors' belief that systems development and other research methodologies are complementary and that an integrated multi-dimensional and multi-methodological approach will generate fruitful is research results. The premise is that research contributions can result from systems development, experimentation, observation, and performance testing of the systems under development and that all of these research approaches are needed to investigate different aspects of the research question.

Citation Jay Nunamaker, Minder Chen, Titus D. M. Purdin (1991). Systems Development in Information Systems Research. Journal of Management Information Systems, vol. 7 no. 3, pp. 89–106. Article

BibTex entry for this article:

BibTex entry for this article:

author = {Nunamaker, Jay and Chen, Minder and Purdin, Titus D. M.},
journal = {Journal of Management Information Systems},
number = {3},
pages = {89--106},
title = {{Systems Development in Information Systems Research}},
volume = {7},
year = {1991}

Key ideas


1. Taxonomy of Research

Looking at the literature in some detail, it can be seen that the objectives and methods of research are classified in various ways. The following are a few of the research classifications available: (p. 90)

  1. Basic and applied research.
  2. Scientific and engineering research.
  3. Evaluative and developmental research.
  4. Research and development.
  5. Formulative and verificational research.

2. A Multimethodological Approach to IS Research

A research domain is the subject matter under study in a research project. A research methodology consists of the combination of the process, methods, and tools that are used in conducting research in a research domain. (p. 91)

3. Systems Development as a Research Methodology

4. A Systems Development Research Methodology

Methodology is the philosophy of the research process that “includes the assumptions and values that serve as a rationale for research and the standards or criteria the researcher uses for interpreting data and reaching a conclusion. (p. 97)

The research process in the social and behavioral sciences can be summarized as follows: (p. 97)

  1. choosing the research problem(s),
  2. stating hypotheses,
  3. formulating the research design,
  4. gathering data,
  5. analyzing data, and
  6. interpreting the results so as to test hypothes

The principle parts of a systems development research methodology are: (p. 98)

  1. Construct a conceptual framework
  2. Develop a system architecture
  3. Analyze and design the system
  4. Build the system
  5. Experiment, observe, and evaluate the system

Tables and figures

Figure 1: A Framework of Research Figure 1 ~ p.92

Figure 2: A Multimethodological Approach to IS Research Figure 2 ~ p.94

Figure 3: A Process for Systems Development Research Figure 3 ~ p.98


Design Science, Information Systems Research, research methodology, software engineering, systems development