The nature of knowledge
in which I outline briefly my approach to philosophy and
then describe the style of theory which underpins much
of the practical work described in this document; I
explain how it differs from some common conceptions of

This chapter marks the transition from the background
material of chapters 1 and 2 to the description of my own
work in chapters 4 to 7.
It shares features of both. In the interests of making explicit
some of the assumptions of my work it briefly describes my
views of reality and theory. It also introduces some of my
own work in the form of four papers on the nature of theory.
The emphasis of the chapter and of the papers is on
practitioner theories: their nature, how they can be related
to other theories, and how they can be used to improve


Robust processes

Peter Checkland (1992) describes research as a framework F, operationalised as a
methodology M, used to investigate an area of concern A. (See also Checkland &
Holwell, 1998.) In the course of the investigation the researcher learns about and
modifies F, M and A.
Checkland’s framework appeals to me on at least two grounds. First, Checkland
clearly has in mind an emergent approach. His expectation is that researchers are
open to changing their minds about the underpinning philosophy and the
methodology. Second, it is action oriented. The “area of concern”, the research
situation, is subject to change as a result of the research. I make an additional
distinction between methodology (for instance soft systems methodology) and
processes (the fine grain processes for collecting and interpreting information,
for example).
Checkland seems to have in mind an epistemological framework, for he talks
about frameworks which specify the nature of knowledge. So to sum up, for me
research is
an epistemological framework ..................F
operationalised as a methodology ............ M
further realised as a...