Staying atop the relevancy issue…

Cheers people,

in terms of teaching and in terms of research… How do you make sure that the message you are trying to convey, that the knowledge you transfer at your course, and that the research you are pursuing, is actually practice-relevant? What are the mechanisms you employ to ensure you teach relevant things? How do you try to “translate” academically rigorous research into something that is actually readable and something that actually satisfies a business (not academic) reader?

In my opinion, I feel that this should be our very high priority. A penny for your thoughts…

PS: I am adding this stuff later on to the initial post as I can’t post images in the comment. Have been reading The Daily Drucker for the last two months (and will continue for another 10, as this is the point of the book – read a page a day) and have came across an interesting part of it…



11 Responses

  1. Simple. I don’t. The research tath I am involved in is true primary academic research. If it ever has any real indistry use, it will not be for at least 20-30 years, and then it will be the base for medical knowledge and probably not a product in itself.
    I make sure that my students understand the difference between primary research – research that may provide a base for future products or services, and industry research, whic is trying to create a new product (or something that can generate revenue).

  2. I believe as an instructor, I need to apply teaching methods that emphasize the application part of any topic I teach. As a CIS instructor, I am obliged to use examples, applications and case studies from industry. This will prepare them for the job market and industry expectations.

  3. Your question seems to have a few parts – teaching relevance, research relevance, and bridging the two. I agree with you that managing all three is ideal.

    One of the ways I keep my teaching grounded in practice is to encourage or assign students to bring in current events related to the class topics that day. Sometimes I ask working students to bring stories of their personal experiences. Both of those tend to be great at spurring class discussion, after which I put news quotes or links up on a course website and online discussion often takes off from there.

    I really like it when research and teaching overlap, but my course assignments and research are not always an easy fit. I have sometimes collected data in my classes, and I give a peek into the managerial implications of the work when I debrief students. I also briefly discuss the research of profs the students might have had or might have in the future when it’s relevant to the course.

    I’ve done a bit of design science work in addition to behavioral research. It is typically very easy to show the relevance of design science research, and students like hearing about it in my experience. My primary behavioral research interests come from my professional background, and my dissertation topic is also motivated in part by a major industry trend. Even when research topics start to get a little esoteric, relating them to my work experience gives me a hook to weave them into teaching or to write that tiny bit journals expect (tolerate?) on managerial implications.

    In terms of satisfying business readers, it’s all about picking your journals and framing appropriately, isn’t it? Communications of the ACM has predominantly practitioner readers, and yet is considered a good research hit at many schools. Its articles can be well grounded in theory without laying the theory out extensively. You may not hear “socio-technical environments” bandied about in industry, but you will find CACM articles that address them with relevance but without heavy theory sections or literature reviews.

    On a random, tangential topic, Peter offered a penny for our thoughts. I’ve contributed my two cents. Why is it thought is valued at $0 in common parlance?

  4. Hi Carolyn,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Is this the first time you write on this blog? If so, welcome!

  5. Hi sphyrnatude, are you the first time writing on this blog? If you are, welcome to the blog 🙂

  6. One thing I try to do is ensure that the motivation and/or research questions of my work has practical implications, that way, I have some research findings that are relevant to practitoners and it is relatively easy to integrate them into the classroom.

  7. Please see above, I included a PS in my initial post…

  8. I think relevancy is very subjective. At times it reach the slippery slopes where individuals use it to justify their own research (and critique others’). What is relevant to a person working in, for example, knowledge management is quite different than one who is working in psychological response to information technology implementations. Thus, rigor vs relevance debate is primarily a fight for “IS territory” amongst various stalwarts in the field.

    This is just my humble opinion and without any malice towards anybody.

  9. I think that this discussion tells us the diversity of OCIS Ph.D. community …some focus on specialized areas and others may not. We all need to balance teaching, research, and, maybe, consulting (for some folks). It is good for us to know what other Ph.D.s think…(that’s why we have this site!) In this way, we can get a better picture of what OCIS community as a whole can contribute to our society…

    I found some interesting articles related to this discussion. The following articles talk about how IS/IT can be taught in business schools…
    Information Systems Research – June 2007 issue

    • Issues and Opinions –Information Technologies in Business: A Blueprint for Education and Research. By Vasant Dhar and Arun Sundararajan
    • Issues and Opinions—Those to Whom IT Matters Most: Perspectives of IT Faculty on Curricula, Courses, and Class Materials. By Andrew McAfee



  10. Israr, thank you for your comment. My question though was not related toward relevancy in general (i.e. relevancy of research), but rather, practical relevancy. How businesses can implement what we are doing and improve their results… Was this what you meant with your comment…?

  11. Peter, I was refering to Rigor vs. Relevance debate in Information Systems research that is now more than a decate and still continuing. Please refer to following papers for more on it.

    Davenport, T.H., Markus, M.L. (1999), “Rigor vs relevance revisited: response to Benbasat and Zmud”, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 23 No.1.

    Iivari, J., Lyytinen, K. (1997), “Information systems research in Scandinavia. Unity in plurality”, in Currie, W. (Eds),Rethinking Management Information Systems, Oxford University Press, London, .

    Benbasat, I., Zmud, R.W. (1999), “Empirical research in information systems: the practice of relevance”, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 23 No.1, .

    Applegate, L.M. “Rigor and Relevance in MIS Research – Introduction,” MIS Quarterly (23:1), March 1999, pp. 1-2.

    Benbasat, I., and Weber, R. “Research commentary: Rethinking ”diversity” in information systems research,” Information Systems Research (7:4) 1996, pp 389-399.

    Dube, L., and Pare, G. “Rigor in information systems positivist case research: Current practices, trends, and recommendations,” MIS Quarterly (27:4), Dec 2003, pp 597-635.

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