Chap2 - 2 Computer Science and Information Systems Research...

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2 Computer Science and Information Systems Research Projects This book outlines a general process for carrying out thesis projects, and it embraces the following components as fundamentally important: (1) identifying the question/ research problem; (2) planning time and resources; and (3) choosing a research method for studying the specific question. In this section, we consider how a thesis project relates to research and research methods. First, we discuss the different areas within computer science and information systems. 2.1 The Landscape of CS and IS Computer science and information systems have been described and defined in many different ways in the literature. One illuminating characterisation of computer science, given by Edsger W. Dijkstra, is as follows: “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.” However, to avoid being too abstract for our purposes with this text, we will avoid in-depth elaboration of the various characterisations and definitions. Instead, we give one general view, which we then illustrate with specific examples of problems. These serve to give some idea of the broad scope of computer science and information systems. The 1975 ACM Turing Award winners Allen Newell and Herbert A. Simon (Newell and Simon, 1976) characterised computer science (CS) as an empirical discipline, in which each new artefact, e.g. a program, can be seen as an experiment, the structure and behaviour of which can be studied. In particular, the field of computer science is concerned with a number of different issues seen from a tech- nological perspective, e.g. theoretical aspects, such as numerical analysis, data structures and algorithms; how to store and manipulate data (e.g. by means of a database system); the relationship between different pieces of software (i.e. different types of architecture, such as client-server, peer-to-peer, two-tier, three-tier); techniques and tools for developing software (i.e. software engineering, program- ming languages and operating systems). The field of Information Systems (IS), as characterised by Allen S. Lee (2001), is concerned with the interaction between social and technological issues. In other 9 M. Berndtsson et al. (eds.), Planning and Implementing your Computing Project - with Success! © Springer 2008
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10 2 Computer Science and Information Systems Research Project words, it is a field which focuses on the actual “link” between the human and social aspects (within an organisation or other broader social setting), and the hardware, software and data aspects of information technology (IT). Similarly, the IFIP Working Group 8.2, which focuses on information systems, describes its scope as being concerned with: the generation and dissemination of descriptive and normative knowledge about the devel- opment and use of information technologies in organisational contexts, both broadly defined. By information technology (IT), we mean technologies that can be used to store,
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Chap2 - 2 Computer Science and Information Systems Research...

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