What is interdisciplinarity?

“Our hypothesis is that interdisciplinarity can be defined as a problem-based approach – or what we might also call an object-based approach – in which knowledge and methods are brought to bear as needed to solve a complex problem or to address an object of study. The problem or the object is defined externally to the disciplines involved; it is not a simple intellectual construct or abstraction. Such an approach is distinct from disciplinary research, in which problems are conceived within the knowledge and methods of the discipline.”

–B. Fairbairn and M. Fulton. 2000. Interdisciplinarity and the Transformation of the University. Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada. This publication is available online.

“The adjective interdisciplinary is the common label for a multitude of activities[.] Foremost among them are tool and method borrowing, collaborative problem solving, complex research queries, transdisciplinary paradigms, cross-fertilizing concepts, interdisciplinary schools of thought, hybrid fields, and interdisciplines.”

–Julie Thompson Klein, Interdisciplinary Studies Today.

Resources for current students:

 Association of Interdisciplinary Studies

The Association of Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS) aims to create scholarly dialogue that encourages and promotes interdisciplinary teaching and research, as well as illustrate real-world applications of  interdisciplinarity theories and practices. More importantly, current Interdisciplinary students can find resources such as Interdisciplinary journals, job listings, and useful materials such as William H. Newell’s “Research Manual for Interdisciplinary Senior Projects”.

Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs

The Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs (AGLSP) is a forum designed for the exchange of information and ideas among Graduate Liberal Studies programs, their students, and their alumni. The AGLSP promotes guidance for institutions considering initiating, sustaining, and improving such programs, and promotes public awareness of the programs. These programs, such as MAIS, provide an alternative approach to continued learning for students who seek broad, interdisciplinary paths to knowledge, usually in a flexible format that accommodates all students.

Recommended and Supplementary Interdisciplinary Texts:

The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (Oxford University Press) by Robert Frodeman (University of North Texas, USA), Julie Thompson Klein (Wayne State University, USA), and Roberto Carlos Dos Santos Pacheco (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil)

The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity provides an extensive overview of the current state of interdisciplinary education, research, and problem-solving knowledge that spans across multiple disciplines and fields, as well as the academic community and society as a whole. This 47-chapter volume aims to discuss the major advances within the fields of inter- and transdisciplinarity written and edited by some of the most respected interdisciplinary scholars of our time.

Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research  (SAGE Publications) by Michael O’Rourke, Stephen Crowley, Sanford D. Eigenbrode, J.D. Wulfhorst

Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research outlines previously unpublished chapters designed to inform readers of developments in both interdisciplinarian research and teaching methodology. Furthermore, this text contains four main parts that concentrate on theoretical perspectives, case studies, communication tools, and institutional perspectives that define future research questions and trends conducted during interdisciplinary work and communication.

Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies (SAGE Publications) by Allen F. Repko, Rick Szostak, and Michelle Phillips Buchberger 

Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies shows students how to effectively think like interdisciplinarians and  provides an introduction to the study of interdisciplinary studies and conceptual and practical approaches as they pertain to the field. This text reflects current advances in literature on research, learning and assessment, as well as the roles of both disciplines and interdisciplinarity in academia.

Case Studies in Interdisciplinary Studies (SAGE Publications) by Allen F. Repko, William H. Newell, and Rick Szostak

Case Studies in Interdisciplinary Studies demonstrates the interdisciplinary research process to research questions as well as outlines crucial techniques needed to conduct and apply thorough, academic research to a variety of problems and scenarios.

Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory (SAGE Publications) by Allen F. Repko

Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory reflects the interest and research pertaining to all aspects of interdisciplinarity and its key focus on integrating diverse perspectives through multiple disciplines. Moreover, this comprehensive text incorporates examples of applied fields (such as the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences) and the ways in which to effectively communicate interdisciplinary research and ideas.

Humanities, Culture, and Interdisciplinarity: The Changing American Academy (State University of New York Press) by Julie Thompson Klein

This book investigates the relationship among three major ideas: interdisciplinarity, humanities, and culture and how they define the changing relationship of these three ideas and extend present thinking about the concept of “American cultural studies.” Klein’s text includes two sets of case studies-the first on the implications of interdisciplinarity for literary studies, art history, and music; the second on the shifting of American studies, African American studies, and women’s studies.

Interdisciplining Digital Humanities: Boundary Work in an Emerging Field (The University of Michigan Press) by Julie Thompson Klein 

Interdisciplining Digital Humanities provides an overview of the widespread claim that Digital Humanities is interdisciplinary. By examining the construction of this new field, it depicts both the ways this new field calls for digital regeneration of “public humanities” in fundamental environments seen in museums, archives, libraries, and community forums.