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Critical literature review essay on the topic ”Perspectives on Knowledge Management”
The essay is part of the course ”perspectives on information systems”, i.e. not only should be addressed how
knowledge and knowledge management is defined within different perspectives but also the
design/nature/interaction with the organisation of information technology should be examined in this context

1. Assignment outline

Subject area/course: Concepts and perspectives of Information Systems
Task: Critical literature review essay on the topic “Perspectives of Knowledge Management” with a focus on the different point of views of the literature regarding information systems
Word limit: 3000 words (incl. abstract, excl. references)
Literature selection: ca. 15-20 core references (suggestion: research articles from information systems and management journals)

2. Details on the assignment

General guidelines:
o The essay is about understanding and articulating the underlying logic of an explanation given in the literature
Assumptions are often implicit, rather than explicit the task is to uncover this and then discuss how various viewpoints support/ contradict each other
It is not about a personal opinion on a perspective!

What does being critical mean:
o The ability to evaluate the validity and strength of arguments and proposals
o The critique you offer should be informed by the theoretical perspectives authors adopt to make arguments and proposals,
o Things to consider when being critical
What assumptions does a paper make about the nature of the IT artefact
What assumptions does it make about the relationship of technology and organizational/social change
What argument does it make about the topic of your interest
Is the argument logically sound
How adequately is the argument supported by empirical evidence How convincing is the analysis of the empirical component
Do the author s arguments fit with existing debates, does it open new directions How
Have perspectives or assumptions changed over time

Guidelines regarding the structure of the essay:
o You may use the structure of technical-rational and socially embedded perspectives to make sense of the assumptions made by scholars (further details see next section)
o Don t summarise, but synthesize alternative views on your topic
o Be concept-centric (NOT author-centric!), e.g.
concept 1 authors 1,2,3 n
concept 2 authors 1,2,3

Literature suggestions by the professor:
o Alavi, M. and Leidner, D.E. (1999) Knowledge management systems: Issues, challenges and benefits , Communications of AIS, 1, pp 1-37
o Brown, J.S. and Duguid, P. (1998) Organizing knowledge , California Management Review 40(3), pp 90-111
o Orlikowski, W. (2002) Knowing in practice: Enacting a collective capability in distributed organizing Organization Science 13(3), pp 249-273
o Zhenzhong, M., Huang, Y., Wu, J., Dong, W. and Qi, L. (2014) What Matters for Knowledge Sharing in Collectivist Cultures Empirical evidence from China , Journal of Knowledge Management, 18, 5, pp. 1004-1019
o Gonzalez, J.C., Lopez-Saez, J.E., Navas-Lopez, J.E. and Delgado-Verde, M. (2014) Directions of External Knowledge Search: Investigating their different impact on firm performance in high-technology industries , Journal of Knowledge Management, 18, 5, pp. 847-866

Required content of the essay:
o Abstract (ca. 150 words)
o Introduction
Need to motivate reader
Provide a working definition of key terms
Frame boundaries
o Body of text with sub-headings
o Conclusion
o References

Marking scheme:
o Understanding of topic: 30%
o Critical discussion of chosen literature: 40%
o Structure and presentation of arguments: 30%

3. My ideas on the assignment

Two relevant perspectives:
(1) Technical/rational management of knowledge as a strategic resource
(2) Socially embedded view of knowledge formed in practice
o Feedback from professor:
What issues are associated with this topic: what is there that is controversial, perhaps still poorly understood and has attracted research attention This can lead you to the identification of the issues on which you will focus in the review, and perhaps justify the analytical distinction between the two perspectives
The two perspectives you identified are a good basis for a critical review. The key theoretical distinction is whether Knowledge Management is part of a planned strategy for competitive advantage (resource-based view of the firm) or is achieved in situated practice as knowledgeable individuals perform their job tasks (practice view). There is a good literature on this controversy, and this will help you to do a good essay. Within this structure you will need to address issues regarding knowledge management systems associated with different types of knowledge, possibility of codification of tacit knowledge and different types of technologies

Concept of technical rationality and social embedded reasoning:
o While the technical-rational perspectives concentrate on intentional actions to meet predetermined desirable goals, the social embeddedness perspectives, draw attention to actions guided by imitation, routines and habits and to actions relying on sense making that deal with unintended consequences, opportunities, and ongoing shaping of IT artefacts and organizational arrangements in the place and time of practice
If needed, additional information on these concepts can provided

Additional literature I considered relevant when selecting the two perspectives (only suggestions to get started with the topic they do not all have to be core references!):

o Alavi, M. and Leidner, D. E. (2001). Review: Knowledge management and knowledge management systems: Conceptual foundations and research issues. MIS Quarterly, 25(1), 107
o Alavi, M, Kayworth, T. R., Leidner, D. E. (2005) ‘An Empirical Examination of the Influence of Organisational Culture on Knowledge Management Practices Journal of Management Information Systems, 22, 3, 191-224
o Barney, J. B. (1991). Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage, Journal of Management. 17(1), 99-120
o Brown, J. S. and Cook, D. N. Bridging Epistemologies: The generative dance between organisational knowledge and organisational knowing, Organisation Science, 10(4), 381-400
o Davenport, T. H., De Long, D. W. and Beers, M. C. (1998). Successful knowledge management projects. Sloan Management Review, Winter, 43-57
o Grant R. M. (1996). Toward a knowledge-based theory of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17, 109-122
o Halawi, L. A., Jay, E. A. and McCarthy, R. V. (2005). Resource-based View of Knowledge Management for Competitive Advantage. The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, 3(2), 75-86
o Hansen M. T., Nohria, N. and Tierney, T. (1999). What s your strategy for
o managing knowledge , Harvard Business Review, 77(2), 106 116.
o Holste, J., S. and Fields, D. (2010). Trust and tacit knowledge sharing. Knowledge Management Journal, 14, 1, 128-140
o Meso, P. and Smith, R. (2000). A resource-based view of organizational knowledge management systems, Journal of Knowledge Management. 4(3), 224-234
o Newell, Sue (2015). Managing knowledge and managing knowledge work: what we know and what the future holds. Journal of Information Technology, 30, 1-17 I think this article is a good starting point to grasp the two perspectives
o Nonaka, I. and Peltokorpi, V. (2006). ‘Objectivist and Subjectivity in Knowledge Management: A Review of 20 Top Articles’. Knowledge and Process Management, 13, 2, 73-82
o Venters, W. (2010). Knowledge management technology-in-practice: a social constructionist analysis of the introduction and use of knowledge management systems. Knowledge management research & practice, 8(2). 161-172
o Vo, L. (2012). Pragmatist Perspective on Knowledge and Knowledge Management in Organizations International Business Research, 5(9), 78-94

For both perspectives (resource-based view and practice view) there needs to be more literature that specially addresses the design/role/nature/interaction with organisations of information systems

Additional thoughts on how to be critical:
o Identifying, and reflecting about:
Main argument of a text, factors & categories considered.
Underlying logic of explanatory arguments, features of a description, predictive factors, and prescribed action.
General abstract assumptions and premises of an argument (not always explicit).
Degree of universality or situatedness (i.e. social embeddedness) of the claims.
Supporting evidence provided for the validity of the arguments or suggestions.
Consequences of the authors arguments of suggestions.
Comparing the arguments and suggestions, the supporting general assumptions, and consequences with other existing literature


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