A current issue in Design Science Research in Information Systems (DSRIS) is the manner in which to capture and present the knowledge gained in the course of a DSRIS project. Different conceptions of design science theory have been suggested. The most firmly established of these is Information Systems Design Theory (ISDT). Recently a number of authors have suggested that additional theory formulations are needed to capture higher-level knowledge:
higher level design science theories
(HLDST). As more types of theory to capture different types of information are proposed the question arises: how do these different theory types relate, to each other and also to the artifact that is constructed in the course of most DSRIS projects?
In this paper we develop a design-decision-constraint framework for characterizing design science theories. Additionally we relate design decisions to the dependent and independent variables of the theories; these traditional elements of theory have been lacking in most discussions of design science theories. By (re)introducing dependent and independent variables to the design science theory conversation we hope to bridge the gap between traditional explanatory theory and ISDT, and thereby help to clarify the discussions of theory in DSRIS.