Three related approaches to argumentation – IBIS, QOC, and DRL

The most commonly used way of treating DR is as a type of argumentation that is structured according to a given schema. There are many ways in which DR argumentation might be structured, but there have historically been two major branches of thought. One branch uses some variant of the schema for argument structure devised by Toulmin [63]. The other uses one of a group of DR schemas having IBIS, QOC, and DRL as its most prominent members. Interest in the former branch seems to have faded over the past 15 years, while the latter continues as perhaps the dominant trend in the field. We will concentrate exclusively on the latter approach to argumentation. In particular, we will examine the similarities and differences among IBIS, QOC, and DRL.


Historically, the DR movement began with Rittel’s IBIS (Issue-Based Information System), which was not a software system but a way of modeling argumentation [30]. By 1967, Rittel had become convinced that design problems were wicked problems and fundamentally different from the well-defined problems of science [7, 54]. He called for an “argumentative approach” to wicked problems and used IBIS to implement this approach [55]. In the 1970s and 1980s he applied IBIS to large-scale projects in planning and policy making for the United Nations, the Commission of European Communities and the West German government. Other researchers applied IBIS to architecture and planning [41].

In the mid-1980s Conklin discovered Rittel’s writings on wicked problems and saw this theory as a way of understanding the profound difficulties.