Storytelling as a qualitative method for is research: Heralding the heroic and echoing the mythic

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19 Scopus citations


We all like a good story, but as researchers we too often dismiss a story as being tangential or superfluous. In this paper we review how early adventurous information systems researchers attempted to use organizational stories in their work, but in doing so may have used mere fragments of stories as an alternative method to gathering data for the design, development, or documentation of information systems. From a theoretical perspective formed by the use of the social construction of technology, we reexamine the purpose or functions of myths and relate these to the functions of stories (which can be experiential, explanatory, validating, and prescriptive) and illustrate how myths are similar to the stories (that are normative or descriptive, practical or philosophical) we hear in organizations today. We explore the elements of a story and show why researchers need to be aware of not just the purpose of the organizational story (through elaboration of the myth), but also the telling of the story (through vividness) and the order in which the story is told (through the use of episodes). A researcher gleans understanding through storytelling by reacting, matching, eliciting, and collaborating with organizational participants, but above all the researcher must appreciate the story as a whole. In this paper we develop a new research method based on storytelling. In doing so we aim to inspire IS researchers to realize the depth and richness found in organizational stories and to appreciate and use stories in their own work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-187
Number of pages27
JournalAustralasian Journal of Information Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Information Systems and Management


  • Discourse analysis
  • Information systems research
  • Mythology
  • Myths
  • Narrative
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Social construction of technology
  • Storytelling


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