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Developing a systemic textual analysis method based on the human activity system modelling language of soft system methodology (SSM)

Research output: Working paper

  • G Hindle


The paper introduces a textual analysis method which utilises a modified version of the Human Activity System (HAS) modelling language from Soft Systems Methodology (SSM). For ease of reference, the method is referred to as the Systemic Textual Analysis Method (STAM). The method constitutes one form of application of a wider ranging systemic methodology for qualitative research, textual analysis and document design (Hindle 2003). The research programme of STAM included a literature review of textual analysis, initial piloting of the method by the author on a range of target texts, and external testing with several different users. Following trends in hermeneutics, linguistics and cultural studies, STAM balances objective and subjective aspects of the process of textual analysis through the use of a systemic activity-based modelling language and the notion of "recoverability" (Checkland and Holwell 1998). In the form presented in this paper, STAM can be used to analyse texts which constitute formal descriptions of processes, methods or methodologies. Such analysis is intended to support critical evaluation of the texts in terms of characteristics such as content, descriptive quality, logical structure, overall coherence and completeness. The basic tenet of STAM is that a formal description of a process, method or methodology can be conceptualised as a set of activities, and therefore a HAS (Checkland and Scholes 1990). STAM opetationalises this concept in the form of a 6 step process, which runs the normal HAS modelling process of SSM in reverse. The paper gives an example of how STAM can be used to analyse a short piece of text which prescribes the process of borrowing a book from a library.