Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) is a complex undertaking that draws on a range of biophysical and social science disciplines, and involves a wide range of stakeholders operating through multiple processes, and crossing various levels. Conceptually, this means that ICZM represents a significant challenge in terms of improving the way in which different disciplinary 'knowledges' and different forms of knowledge (scientific, managerial, lay, and indigenous) inform decision making. Depending upon the circumstances, ICZM may be constrained by different knowledge deficits , including: uncertainty; science - policy gaps; and the 'filtering' of particular forms of knowledge relative to others. As a means for making sense of these knowledge dynamics, this paper considers the concept of knowledge systems and its potential for improving understanding of coastal management processes. The potential insights that can be gained from four analytical approaches (stakeholder, institutional, network, and discourse analysis) are then discussed, and used to develop an analytical framework for investigating coastal knowledge dynamics, which is based upon a generic coastal knowledge system and associated research questions. Finally, the utility of this framework is illustrated using a case study that examines the knowledge dynamics associated with debates about the establishment of marine protected areas in Victoria, Australia.