"Whole systems research entails the intention to include conceptually as part of the investigative context all aspects of any internally consistent approach to treatment, including its philosophical basis, patients, practitioners, setting of practice, and methods/materials used. Whole systems research acknowledges unique patient, family, community, and environmental characteristics and perspectives. The aim is to use appropriate research designs so that the system can be assessed within its explanatory model."
Rittenbaugh, C., Verhoef, M., Fleishman, S., Boon, H., and Leis, A. (2003). Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; 9/4: 33.