Explicit and integrated inclusion of ecosystem services (ESs) and their interrelationships can improve the quality of strategic plans and decision-making processes. However, there is little systematic analysis of how ES interrelationships are framed in policy language, particularly in coastal planning discourse. The objective of this paper is therefore to present a four-step method, based on content analysis, to assess ES interrelationships in coastal strategic planning documents. The method consists of: 1) selecting strategic plans; 2) identifying ESs; 3) identifying drivers, ESs and their effects; and 4) constructing relational diagrams. The four-step method is applied to a case of Jiaozhou Bay in China, demonstrating its capacity of identifying which drivers and ES trade-offs and synergies are formulated in coastal strategic plans. The method is helpful to identify overlooked ES interrelationships, inform temporal and spatial issues, and assess the continuity of plans' attention to interrelationships. The main methodological contributions are discussed by emphasizing its broad scope of drivers and ESs and an explicit distinction among the cause of relationships. The developed method also has the potential of cross-fertilizing other kinds of approaches and facilitating practical planning processes. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.