Multiple cause diagrams
The rules for drawing multiple cause diagrams are:
- phrases may be things but as the diagram develops it is preferable to use variables associated with them, e.g. ‘poor teaching material’ might become ‘35% of teaching material is substandard’;
- arrows do not necessarily mean causes, but can be read as ‘contributes to’, ‘leads to’, ‘enables’, or similar terms;
- the diagram may be entirely sequential, or it may contain loops.
The guidelines for using multiple cause diagrams include:
- begin at the factor or event to be explained and work backwards;
- the arrows should be labelled;
- it is not necessary to put blobs around phrases;
- ensure that each causal link is clear, inserting any necessary intermediate variables or factors as necessary;
- these diagrams do not distinguish necessary and sufficient causes – if this is required the diagram will need annotating to show this;
- it is not necessary to draw a system boundary, but drawing the diagram may guide ideas about where the boundary lies;
- although these diagrams are similar to influence diagrams, they are different because they can be read sequentially rather than being a snapshot representation and they do not begin with the structure of the system.
Systems Thinking and Complexity
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