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1.1: Introduction to Information Systems?

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    Learning Objectives

    Upon successful completion of this chapter, you will be able to:

    • define what an information system is by identifying its major components;
    • describe the basic history of information systems; and
    • describe the basic argument behind the article “Does IT Matter?” by Nicholas Carr.


    If you are reading this, you are most likely taking a course in information systems, but do you even know what the course is going to cover? When you tell your friends or your family that you are taking a course in information systems, can you explain what it is about? For the past several years, I have taught an Introduction to Information Systems course. The first day of class I ask my students to tell me what they think an information system is. I generally get answers such as “computers,” “databases,” or “Excel.” These are good answers, but definitely incomplete ones. The study of information systems goes far beyond understanding some technologies. Let’s begin our study by defining information systems.

    Defining Information Systems

    Almost all programs in business require students to take a course in something called information systems. But what exactly does that term mean? Let’s take a look at some of the more popular definitions, first from Wikipedia and then from a couple of textbooks:

    • “Information systems (IS) is the study of complementary networks of hardware and software that people and organizations use to collect, filter, process, create, and distribute data.”[1]
    • “Information systems are combinations of hardware, software, and telecommunications networks that people build and use to collect, create, and distribute useful data, typically in organizational settings.”[2]
    • “Information systems are interrelated components working together to collect, process, store, and disseminate information to support decision making, coordination, control, analysis, and viualization in an organization.”[3]
    As you can see, these definitions focus on two different ways of describing information systems: the components that make up an information system and the role that those components play in an organization. Let’s take a look at each of these.

    1.1: Introduction to Information Systems? is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by David T. Bourgeois (Saylor Foundation) .

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