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Chitu Okoli

Posted on Jul 9, 2012 in Research summaries

Hirschheim 2008: Some Guidelines for the Critical Reviewing of Conceptual Papers

Hirschheim, Rudy (2008) "Some Guidelines for the Critical Reviewing of Conceptual Papers," Journal of the Association for Information Systems: Vol. 9: Iss. 8, Article 21.
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  • Rationale: This editorial commentary was written by Rudy Hirschheim two years after becoming the senior editor of the IS Research Perspectives section of the Journal of the Association for Information Systems. He addresses reviewers with the purpose of guiding them in reviewing conceptual articles, which is different in some significant ways from reviewing empirical articles. Apparently, his experience revealed that many reviewers do not recognize the difference, and so had a hard time producing valuable reviews.
  • Objectives: Hirschheim provides guidelines for reviewing conceptual articles. Although his guidelines are also applicable for empirical articles, they are focused on conceptual articles; he does not attempt to duplicate the work of numerous excellent guides for reviewing empirical articles, which he cites.
  • Theoretical background: Theoretical frameworks or perspectives (whether theory building or theory testing) used to accomplish the objectives. He mainly bases his advice on Toulmin's (1958) framework on the essential elements of an argument: claims (the thesis), grounds (evidence and justification offered in support) and warrants (background assumptions and conditions under which the grounds are expected to validate the claims).
  • Methodology: He presents advise according to general section of the conceptual paper: introduction, content ("the specific contribution to knowledge", p. 436), presentation/structure, theoretical foundation, data analysis/interpretation, argumentation, results and conclusions.
  • Key findings: Hirschheim considers that the theoretical foundation, the data (by which he means conceptual evidence) and results are the most distinctive elements of a conceptual paper, and so he highlights his recommendations for these sections as his primary contributions.
  • Key contribution to knowledge: I consider the most unique contribution of the paper to be his presentation of how to present results. He explains that the paper needs to be intelligible (be understandable, make sense), interesting (novel and non-intuitive), and believable (logically compelling). He explicates how these elements can be established.
  • Key implications: Implications for practice and for future research. With these guidelines, reviewers of conceptual paper can hopefully be better equipped to providing valuable developmental reviews.
  • Comments: Although this paper is addressed to reviewers, I read it and find it valuable primarily for learning some important elements of writing a valuable conceptual paper.


Toulmin, S., The Uses of Argument, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1958.

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