Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004–14, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 9 March, 2014 , © Lee Harvey 2004–14.





core definition

Interdisciplinary refers to research or study that integrates concepts from different disciplines resulting in a synthesised or co-ordinated coherent whole.

explanatory context


analytical review

 For the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR, 2005):

Interdisciplinary is defined as the ability to analyze, synthesize and harmonize links between disciplines into a coordinated and coherent whole.


Mansilla and Gardner (2005) state:

In this study we defined “interdisciplinary work” as work that integrates knowledge and modes of thinking from two or more disciplines. Such work embraces the goal of advancing understanding (e.g., explain phenomena, craft solutions, raise new questions)

in ways that would have not been possible through single disciplinary means.


The Idaho State Board of Education (2002) note:

In spanning multiple disciplines, interdisciplinary programs by their very nature reach across the traditional boundaries of colleges and departments. In this context, interdisciplinary is defined as meaning University-wide, or programs involving faculty from more than two colleges where no single college has a majority of the curriculum or faculty.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (undated) states, pragmatically, that:

A simple definition of interdisciplinary research is “research that involves the interaction among two or more different disciplines”. This may range from the sharing of ideas to full integration of concepts, methodology, procedures, theory, terminology, data and organization of research and training in a fairly large field. Multidisciplinary research draws on knowledge from different disciplines but stays within the boundaries of those fields1. In this document, ‘interdisciplinary’ is used to refer to both types of research that may be conducted by individual researchers as well as groups. For administrative purposes, NSERC defines interdisciplinary grant applications as those that require the selection of referees from more than one discipline, the establishment of a review panel with members from more than one discipline, or the expertise of more than one selection committee or panel in the peer review process.

Rutgers University (1988) states:

For purposes of implementing the new curriculum, we define an interdisciplinary course as one:

a. which focuses on a theme, issue, historical period or culture and studies it from two or more disciplinary perspectives, and

b. in which the faculty member or members teaching the course present an in‑depth discussion and analysis of these two or more disciplinary perspectives, and

c. in which students are evaluated on their recognition of and ability to deal with these two or more disciplinary perspectives.


To judge whether a course meets the terms of this definition, the Committee will look closely at:

a.     course syllabi and reading lists which must reflect interdisciplinary in depth

b.     the tools of evaluation used in the course

c.     the interests and expertise of the instructor(s)

d.    the particular suitability of the course for an interdisciplinary approach.


University of New Hampshire (2004) states the following:

Interdisciplinary Extension work integrates the knowledge and perspectives of multiple areas of expertise to holistically solve problems through research and education.


Falcioni (2004) attempts to distinguish interdisciplinary from interdiffusion:

According to the tenth edition of Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the word interdisciplinary is defined as the involvement of two or more academic, scientific, or artistic disciplines. But those who are edgy about leaving their comfort zone often confuse the term to mean interdiffusion, or as Webster puts it, the process of mixing freely so as to approach a homogeneous mixture. Interdisciplinary celebrates the whole without jeopardizing its parts.


In an attempt to disentangle similar terms. Mallon and Burton (2005) note:

For comparative purposes, we adopted the same definitions for inter-, multi-, and unidisciplinary as Friedman and Friedman (1982). Interdisciplinary is defined as faculty from different disciplines working together on the same project; multidisciplinary is defined as faculty from different disciplines working independently on different aspects of a project; and unidisciplinary is defined as faculty from a single discipline working together, using consultants from other disciplines as needed.

According to Wikipedia (2005)

Interdisciplinary work is that which integrates concepts across different disciplines. New disciplines have arisen as a result of such syntheses. For instance, quantum information processing amalgamates elements of quantum physics and computer science. Bioinformatics combines molecular biology with computer science. An interdisciplinary team is a team of people with training in different fields. Interdisciplinary teams are common in complex environments such as health care.

More recently Wikipedia (2011)

Interdisciplinarity involves the combining of two or more academic fields into one single discipline. An interdisciplinary field crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines or schools of thought, as new needs and professions have emerged.
Originally the term interdisciplinary is applied within education and training pedagogies to describe studies that use methods and insights of several established disciplines or traditional fields of study. Interdisciplinarity involves researchers, students, and teachers in the goals of connecting and integrating several academic schools of thought, professions, or technologies - along with their specific perspectives - in the pursuit of a common task. The epidemiology of AIDS or global warming require understanding of diverse disciplines to solve neglected problems. Interdisciplinary may be applied where the subject is felt to have been neglected or even misrepresented in the traditional disciplinary structure of research institutions, for example, women's studies or ethnic area studies.
The adjective interdisciplinary is most often used in educational circles when researchers from two or more disciplines pool their approaches and modify them so that they are better suited to the problem at hand, including the case of the team-taught course where students are required to understand a given subject in terms of multiple traditional disciplines. For example, the subject of land use may appear differently when examined by different disciplines, for instance, biology, chemistry, economics, geography, and politics.

associated issues

Factors that, arguably, have hindered interdisciplinary work are the traditional divisions that have been established between disciplines and the resulting homogeneity within academic bodies such as departments and specialized academic journals. Nevertheless, some of the most important interdisciplinary work has been done by people who have a definite academic home in one discipline (Wikipedia, 2005).

related areas

See also




Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) 2005, Training Program Grant Guide, Strategic Training Initiative in Health Research,, modified 30 Apil 2010, accessed 17 January 2012 but the definition of interdisciplinary has disappeared from this page 1 September 2012.

Falcioni, J.G., 2004, ‘The Agile Engineer’, editorial, Mechanical Engineering Magazine Online  (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers), not available 17 January 2012.

Idaho State Board of Education, 2002, Academic/professional-technical education Notice of intent. University of Idaho Institution Submitting Proposal College of Graduate Studies FC-04-015: NOIfrmrev9/19/02.

Mallon, W.T. and Burnton, S., 2005, ‘The Functions of Centers and Institutes in Academic Biomedical Research’ Analysis in Brief 5(1), June 2005, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAME), not available 17 January 2012.

Mansilla, V.B. and Gardner, H., 2005, ‘Assessing interdisciplinary work at the frontier. An empirical exploration of ‘symptoms of quality’’ Rethinking Interdisciplinarity, 2005 interdisciplines, not available 17 January 2012.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, undated, Annex 4, Draft policies and guidelines on the review of applications in interdisciplinary research areas, not available 17 January 2012.

Rutgers University, 1988, FASN Courses of Study Committee,, not available 17 January 2012.

University of New Hampshire (2004), ‘Definition of Interdisciplinary Work’, available 17 January 2012, no longer available at this addrss 28 August 2012 (Source: PAST Recommendations – March 2, 2004.)

Wikipedia, 2005, Interdisciplinary,, modified 12 August, 2005, subsequently further modified see Wkipedia 2012.

Wikipedia, 2012, Interdisciplinary,, modified 11 January 2012 at 21:41, accessed 17 January 2012. This will doubtless continue to be modified.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–12


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