Monash University
2 files

Evolution of a discipline: the history of the formation and growth of the Information Systems discipline in Victorian universities from 1960 to 2011

posted on 2016-11-29, 04:31 authored by Atchison, Martin Desmond
This thesis is an historical study of the development of the Information Systems (IS) discipline as it has been implemented in specialist academic departments and undergraduate programs in several Australian universities. The thesis traces the evolution of the discipline through the formation of these departments and their programs, and analyses the differences in perceptions of the nature of the discipline, as it has been expressed through their undergraduate program curricula. As well as examining the development of IS across the group of universities as a whole, the study also provides an in-depth case study of the formation and growth of the discipline within Monash University, which is the largest university in the group, and also the largest in Australia. The main stimulus for the research was the ongoing debate about the nature of IS as an academic discipline. Debate and discussion about a variety of issues relating to the nature of IS have been a major theme in the discipline’s academic literature since the time of its birth as a field of study in the early 1960s. The last decade has seen an intensification of these controversies, with few signs of any resolution of the differences in perceptions of the discipline. The study uses the examination of the implementation of the discipline in practice across the case study universities as a means of describing the key differences in perceptions of the nature of the discipline, analysing and understanding how these different perceptions have formed, and assessing their implications for the discipline’s future. The study shows that across the case study universities, the formation and growth of the discipline has generally followed an evolutionary path. Differences in perceptions of the nature and cognitive content of the discipline have followed as a consequence of differences in its evolutionary path in each university. Three interacting sets of forces are identified as having been the dominant influences on these patterns of evolutionary growth: • Disciplinary forces: Felt through the influence of the ‘parent’ discipline from which IS programs evolved; they caused each IS department/program to inherit, at least in part, some of that discipline’s key characteristics. • Organizational structural influences: Felt through organizational decision-making within each university about where the academic groups which taught IS programs should be located relative to other disciplines. • Market forces: Felt initially through the influence of the nature of work force demand for skilled computing professionals, and then through the impact of changes in patterns of student demand for IT-related programs. The study shows how the unique combination of these influences shaped the IS discipline and its curriculum in each university. It shows how the differences in these influences were reflected in differences in the nature of the discipline as practised in each institution, and how these were in turn expressed through variations in the curricula of their undergraduate IS programs. In doing so, the study demonstrates the contribution which historically-based research of the implementation of IS in practice can make to our understanding of the discipline and its future prospects.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Douglas Gibson Hamilton

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Information Technology (Monash University Caulfield)


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Information Technology

Usage metrics

    Faculty of Information Technology Theses


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager