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The University of Southampton

MANG6049 Problem Structuring

Module Overview

This module introduces you to the inter-related issues of defining, developing, exploring and working with ill-structured problems in an effective manner. Problems which present in a well-structured form are the exception rather than the rule. Most problems are messy: ill-defined, often vague and poorly expressed, and with as many subjective versions as there are people involved. Such problems rarely lend themselves in any obvious way to quantification or neat solution by the traditional methods of management science. In recent years, management scientists have become increasingly interested in approaches to problems which enable problem owners to define, discuss, explore and work with problems in a constructive way, without over-simplifying or distorting. This module introduces a number of problem structuring methods (PSMs), and considers the issues associated with their use and development.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

to provide you with an introduction to problem structuring methods, covering the basic techniques underlying a number of such methods, characterising the contexts in which they might be used successfully, and examining the principles of problem structuring practice. Some of the issues and concerns with their use will be explored. Having successfully taken this module, you should be in a position to use the methods covered in straightforward contexts at a novitiate level.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the basics of a number of PSMs and the issues associated with their use, and the ability to use these approaches effectively;
  • the “soft” management science approach.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • the intellectual (cognitive) skills required to use PSMs effectively;
  • the intellectual (cognitive) skills to work effectively with PSMs.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • qualitative problem-solving.


The module consists of an exploration of issues concerned with problem structuring and soft management science, including the practical use of PSMs.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module is taught in a series of lecture sessions. These sessions cover basic conceptual material relating both to specific problem structuring methods and more general considerations (learning outcomes A1, A2), and introduce practical skills relating to the basic use of methods (learning outcomes B1, B2). You are expected to develop your understanding of conceptual and practical material by means of directed private study. Overall, the module develops qualitative problem-solving skills (learning outcome C1).

Independent Study63
Total study time75

Resources & Reading list

J. Rosenhead & J. Mingers (editors) (2001). Rational Analysis for a Problematic World Revisited: Problem Structuring Methods for Complexity, Uncertainty and Conflict. 



Class discussions


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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