First Advisor

Wayne Wakeland

Term of Graduation

Winter 2021

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science


Systems Science




System theory, System analysis



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 166 pages)


As simple visual diagrams of key dynamics in complex systems, causal-loop diagrams could meet known needs in settings such as theory-based program evaluation and qualitative research. Methods for developing and using causal-loop diagrams, however, are underdeveloped. This dissertation comprises three articles that advance these methods. The first paper describes a systematic review of evaluation studies utilizing causal-loop diagramming to illustrate program theory. The second paper pilots an improved method for systematically generating causal-loop diagrams from qualitative data. The third paper presents a protocol for an interview-based approach to mapping mental models. Together, this research contributes to recognizing the modeler as co-creator, reframes the relationship between intervention and context, and enables more diverse uses for causal-loop diagrams. Ultimately, this research serves to improve the rigor and transparency of methods for developing causal-loop diagrams, broadening their potential applications for modeling, research, and evaluation.


© 2021 Erin Suzanne Kenzie

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The defense presentation associated with this dissertation may be accessed at:

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