When Constructs Become Obsolete: A Systematic Approach to Evaluating and Updating Constructs for Information Systems Research

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Publication History

Received: May 3, 2018
Revised: September 30, 2019; May 13, 2020; January 27, 2021; June 6, 2021
Accepted: June 16, 2021
Published Online as Articles in Advance: May 18, 2022
Published Online in Issue: June 1, 2022


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In this paper, we confront a paradox in the IS literature that even though our field focuses on the rapid pace of technological change and the dramatic scale of technology-enabled organizational and societal changes, we sometimes find ourselves studying these changes using—largely without question—constructs that were developed in a vastly different IT, user, and organizational environment. We provide guidelines to help assess whether an existing construct warrants updating and to structure the updating task if it is undertaken. Our three-step process provides for a theoretically grounded and comprehensive method that ensures we balance the need for construct updating against the need to sustain our cumulative tradition. We illustrate our guidelines using computer self-efficacy (CSE) as a case study. We document each of the steps involved in analyzing, reconceptualizing, and testing the revised construct information technology self-efficacy (ITSE). Our analyses show that the new construct better explains both traditional and contemporary constructs with a traditional (postal survey) and contemporary (online panel) sample. We discuss the implications of our work both for research on self-efficacy and more broadly for future updating of other important constructs.

Additional Details
Author Deborah Compeau, John Correia, and Jason Bennett Thatcher
Year 2022
Volume 46
Issue 2
Keywords IT self-efficacy, IT identity, construct measurement, cumulative tradition, construct obsolescence, updating constructs
Page Numbers 679-712; DOI: 10.25300/MISQ/2022/15516
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