The role of theory in gender and information systems research

Eileen M. Trauth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


In response to claims emanating from recent assessments of the status of gender and IS research about insufficient theorizing of gender, a critical literature analysis of research papers on the topic of gender and IS that appeared in information systems journals between 1992 and 2012 was undertaken. While some research about gender and IS explicitly employs or develops gender theory, other research that claims to be about gender does not explicitly employ any gender theory to interpret research findings, relying, instead, on implicit gender essentialism as a theory-in-use. Research papers about gender and IS that do not explicitly employ gender theory typically use another IS or management theory as the sensitizing device to interpret the data. Still other research papers are gender atheoretical insofar as neither explicit nor implicit gender theorizing is evident in the papers. In gender and IS research, as in all research, gender theory can be used as a lens to guide the collection, analysis and interpretation of data - whether conducted with a positivist, interpretive or critical epistemology. Alternatively, gender theory can be used to interpret findings when gender is a factor that (expectedly or unexpectedly) results from a larger analysis. Finally, gender theory can result, inductively, from the data by means of grounded theory methods. In any case, the use of theory is to be directed toward understanding the phenomenon of gender in the context of IS (analyzing, explaining), establishing causality (predicting) or guiding action (design and action). This analysis of the role of theory in gender and IS research offers recommendations about the conduct of gender and IS research going forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-293
Number of pages17
JournalInformation and Organization
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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