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Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

Cognitive Research in Information Systems

Cognitive Research in Information Systems
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Author(s): Felix B. Tan (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand)and M. Gordon Hunter (University of Lethbridge, Canada)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 6
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch093


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The existence and significance of cognition in organizations and its influence on patterns of behaviour in organizations and organizational outcomes are increasingly accepted in information systems (IS) research (Barley, 1986; DeSanctis & Poole, 1994; Griffith, 1999; Griffith & Northcraft, 1996; Orlikowski, 1992, 1994 #208). However, assessing the commonality and individuality in cognition and eliciting the subjective understanding of research participants either as individuals or as groups of individuals remain a challenge to IS researchers (Orlikowski & Gash, 1994). Various methods for studying cognition in organizations have been offered - for example, clinical interviewing (Schein, 1987), focus groups (Krueger, 1988), discourse-based interviewing (Odell, Goswami & Herrington, 1983). This article proposes that cognition applied to making sense of IT in organizations can also be explored using Kelly’s (1955) Personal Construct Theory and its methodological extension, the Repertory Grid (RepGrid). The RepGrid can be used in IS research for uncovering the constructs research participants use to structure and interpret events relating to the development, implementation, use and management of IS in organizations. In the context of this article, cognition is considered to be synonymous with subjective understanding: “the everyday common sense and everyday meanings with which the observed human subjects see themselves and which gives rise to the behaviour that they manifest in socially constructed settings” (Lee, 1991, p. 351). Research into cognition in organizations investigates the subjective understanding of individual members within the organization and the similarities and differences in the understandings among groups of individuals (Jelinek & Litterer, 1994; Porac & Thomas, 1989). In IS research, it is the personal constructs managers, users and IS professionals use to interpret and make sense of information technology (IT) and its role in organizations. The discussion here outlines the myriad of ways the RepGrid can be employed to address specific research objectives relating to subjective understanding and cognition in organizations. It illustrates, from a variety of published studies in IS (see Table 1), the flexibility of the RepGrid to support both qualitative and/or quantitative analyses of the subjective understandings of research participants.

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