The IBIS Domain

Why using IBIS?

I use the IBIS to describe itself.

Why using IBIS Notation?
Explaining IBIS with IBIS. 

Issue based information systems (IBIS) can be used to display any conversation of thought process. The notation itself is very simple. IBIS diagrams have only 4 different node types: questions (everything can be questioned), answers/ideas as responses to questions and arguments for each of these answers and ideas. By adding questions to every other node can you explore each part of the diagram in any depth needed or wanted. 

IBIS Domain Definition

The graph below describes the IBIS Domain. The Question Node Type is the starting point (hence the edge from the start symbol). From question you can create a successor Idea. Ideas can be followed by Pro and Con Nodes. Questions can be successors to all Node Types. 

The IBIS Domain structure
Node Type Description Is Starting Point / Successors
Question Questions are the key driver of IBIS. They are the starting point and the one item that can be connected to all other nodes. Yes /
Idea, Question
Idea An idea (depending on context you can call it as well an answer) for a question. Ideas are used to answer your questions. No / 
Pro, Con, Question
Pro Arguments in favour of an idea. Add anything that you think is relevant for a given idea or answer. The Pros will later help you making a decision. No /

Con Arguments against an idea. Add anything that you think is relevant for a given idea or answer. The Cons will later help you making a decision. No /
Decision When the IBIS map is getting finalised you often want to evaluate the map and decide on your next step. Attach this Node Type to an Idea in order to depict your chosen idea / answer. No /
Best Idea (not depicted in diagram above) Instead of using the decision you can choose to highlight one idea as the “best idea”.  No /
(same as Idea)

What is the IBIS Notation?

The Issue-Based Information System (IBIS) Notation was invented by Werner Kunz and Horst Rittel as an argumentation-based approach to support analysis of so-called “wicked” problems. However, IBIS Notation can be used for all problems, whether wicked or not.

Use Vithanco to create and change IBIS diagrams in order to map out a dialogue/argumentation or a thought/analysis. It uses a simple structure to help you getting to the bottom of your problems.

The IBIS Notation is a simple graphical presentation of questions and answers with their respective advantages and disadvantages with the following rules:

  • A question can have any number of answers or ideas.
  • Any answer/idea can have any number of arguments for each answer, split into the two categories of pros and cons.

The result is a simple graphical representation of a question. You can use it for any kind of question and you have a short exploration of a topic. It is of interest for all those that prefer a graphical representation instead of a textual description.

The concept of the IBIS notation are deliberately kept simple to make it useful for many use cases. The only so-to-say “complication” is that you can attach a question to any other item. As such you can:

  • question a question (“Shouldn’t we rather discuss X?” or “What are the assumptions behind this question?”), or you can
  • question an answer (“To follow this idea, what would we need to take into consideration?”, “What proof do we have for this statement?”), or you can
  • question a pro or con (“What could we do to overcome this disadvantage?”).

Each of these questions would then have it’s own structure with answers/ideas and pros&cons. And of course can these have further questions attached. Nothing restricts how big the IBIS diagram might become. You as the creator decide how many questions you want to include asks and how “deep” you want to go with your diagram in order to analyse the topic at hand.

Further Information