How to read a behavioral research paper
Prepared by Prof. Lee Sproull and Prof. Natalia Levina
For the “IS Research: Behavioral Perspectives” doctoral seminar
In this seminar you must read many papers. “
Exploratory questions probe facts and basic knowledge: “What evidence supports the hypothesis?”
Challenge questions examine assumptions, conclusions, and interpretations: “How else might we account for the findings of this experiment? Would the conclusions hold if a different method was used?”
Relational questions ask for comparisons of themes, ideas, or issues: “What premises of Sproull/Kiesler (86) did Walther (96) challenge? How does the concept of interface differ among Authors A, B, and C? How does this work relate to the themes from prior classes?”
Diagnostic questions probe motives or causes: “Why did author A use method B in this study? What are authors’ assumptions about human nature, technology, and knowledge?”
Cause-and-effect questions ask for causal relationships between ideas, actions, or events: “If the technology artifact were changed in the following ways, how would the relationships proposed by author A change?”
Extension questions: “How does this paper relate to previous papers?” “What are the practical implications of this work?”
Priority questions: “What is the most important or most fundamental theoretical issue emerging from this paper? This set of papers?
Knowledge skills (remembering): How does author A define outsourcing? How is IT productivity measured in paper B?
Comprehension skills (understanding the meaning of remembered material, usually demonstrated by restating or citing examples): Explain the process by which IT investment increases productivity according to paper B. Give examples of boundary processes in IT development.
Application skills (using information in a new context to solve a problem or answer a question): how could the method of paper A be used to investigate the problem posed in paper B?
Analysis skills (breaking a concept into its parts and explaining their interrelationships): What are the components of mutual knowledge [according to author A? according to you?] How do they interrelate [according to author A? according to you?] How do they contribute to group collaboration [according to author A? according to you?]
Synthesis skills (putting the parts together to form a new whole; solving a problem requiring creativity or originality): “How would you design a structuration study of the “productivity paradox?”
Evaluation skills (using a set of criteria to arrive at a reasoned judgment of the value of the paper): “To what extent does the paper advance understanding of behavioral IS research?”
(modified from Barbara Gross Davis, 2001, Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, pp. 83-85)