Explicating design theories with conceptual models: Towards a theoretical role of reference models

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Physica-Verlag | Springer


In this paper we outline a new approach for explicating results of IS design research by using conceptual models when formulating theoretical statements. In particular, we argue that applying conceptual reference models in the theory-building process enables design researchers to express their hypotheses and underlying assumptions more accurately. Furthermore, our approach allows researchers to specify empirically refutable statements. We ground our work in the concept of IS design theories as proposed by Walls et al. (1992) and extend their idea twofold: first, based on an analysis of the output types of design research as proposed by March & Smith (1995) we show that conceptual reference models facilitate formulating design-theoretical statements. Second, to facilitate developing concise and elementary testable theory statements, we apply the idea of patterns as proposed by Alexander (1973). Overall, we propose a detailed framework that integrates conceptual reference modeling in the process of theorizing in design-oriented IS research. Thus, we present an important step towards building “own” theories of IS research.

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Wissenschaftstheorie und Gestaltungsorientierte Wirtschaftsinformatik