Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 441–453

The Pattern-matching Role of Systems Thinking in Improving Research Trustworthiness

Original Paper


This paper seeks to identify a new and useful role for systems thinking in improving qualitative research quality. Firstly, it reflects upon the main characteristics and difficulties of qualitative research. Secondly, it critically reviews some of the techniques suggested to improve research credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability. Thirdly, it explains the concept of pattern-matching and its role in designing case studies. Based on these, the paper examines the pattern-matching role of systems thinking in enhancing the trustworthiness of qualitative research. Finally, a case study is described to illustrate how pattern-matching is embedded in systems perspective to improve research trustworthiness. The paper highlights that when systems thinking is combined with pattern-matching properly in qualitative research, it can help the investigators to develop a fuller and richer understanding of a phenomenon, and can enable others interested in the research to recover how conclusions have been made and to make informed judgement about the research findings.


Systems thinking Qualitative research Research trustworthiness Pattern-matching 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business Organisation and Management, University of UlsterNewtownabbey, Co. AntrimNorthern Ireland, UK

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