Engaged Problem Formulation in IS Research

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“Is this the problem?”: the question that haunts many information systems (IS) researchers when they pursue work relevant to both practice and research. Nevertheless, a deliberate answer to this question requires more than simply asking the involved IS practitioners. Deliberately formulating problems requires a more substantial engagement with the different stakeholders, especially when their problems are ill structured and situated in complex organizational settings. On this basis, we present an engaged approach to formulating IS problems with, not for, IS practitioners. We have come to understand engaged problem formulation as joint researching and as the defining of contemporary and complex problems by researchers and those practitioners who experience and know these problems. We used this approach in investigating IS management in Danish municipalities. In this paper, we present the approach to formulating problems in an engaged way. We discuss it in relation to ideas and assumptions that underpin engaged scholarship, and we discuss the implications for IS action research, design science research, and mixed approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number35
JournalCommunications of the Association for Information Systems (CAIS)
Pages (from-to)720-737
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Engaged scholarship
  • IT Management
  • Action Research
  • Collaborative Practice Research
  • Design Science Research
  • Action design research
  • Problem formulation
  • Problem dialogue
  • Problem deliberation
  • Problem flexibility


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