There are a number of alternative tools and methods for building and designing information systems for organizational use. Each tool or design alternative has its advocates. Benefits and advantages are proposed or claimed; little empirical evidence is presented.
The two selected papers from the 1985 International Conference on Information Systems (Indianapolis, December 15-18) present empirical laboratory experiments to provide evidence as to tools and design alternatives. The first paper by Dickson, DeSanctis, and McBride describes three experiments to compare traditional tabular presentation with graphic presentation. The experiments are designed to build cumulative research results around the issue of the task the reader of the information is to perform upon receiving the information. The second paper by Vessey and Weber provides experimental evidence comparing methods for documenting a problem: decision tree, decision table, and structured English. The three methods are frequently presented as alternatives; the experiments compare them.
Two studies do not settle an issue as complex as comparison of alternative tools and methods: they begin to provide the evidence needed. They also illustrate one well-established research approach—the laboratory experiment. The advantage of laboratory experiments is the control that can be obtained; field studies and experience of practitioners can be understood more fully in the context of such laboratory results.
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