Skip to Main Content

There is some complexity to defining multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research (Klein, 2006; Barry & Born, 2013; Siedlok & Hibbert, 2014). In this paper we use the framework of Huutoniemi et al. (2010) that conceptualises multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary as points on a continuum (Table 1). Multidisciplinary work brings researchers from different disciplines together to address a common research question by all contributing some expertise without substantially adapting their approaches or changing their own positions or understanding on the question (Borrego & Newswander, 2008). On the other hand, interdisciplinary work goes beyond the division-of-labour approach of multidisciplinary research, to actually integrate different data, methods, tools, concepts or theories and create a common understanding of the issue or question (Huutoniemi et al., 2010). In this paper, we use the term cross-disciplinary to describe all the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary work that takes place within our Programme between researchers from more than one research field. We specifically explore research taking place between researchers from different research fields rather than also including cross-disciplinary work conducted solely by an individual or work that includes non-academic stakeholders (Pfirman & Martin, 2010).

Table 1.

The characteristics of publications within each category of cross-disciplinary research (MD = multidisciplinary; ID = interdisciplinary). Based on Huutoniemi et al. (2010).

Encyclopaedic MDContextual MDComposite MDEmpirical IDMethodological IDTheoretical ID
Sub-projects brought together around a topic. Multiple authors contribute sections that are only linked together by the problem. Transfers an existing approach or model from one research field to solve a problem in a different research field. Starts with a broad background that brings in many research fields but ultimately focuses on only one aspect. Division-of-labour approach. Different specialisations responsible for different sections of the research and write-up. New or existing empirical data from lots of different fields integrated to solve an inter-disciplinary research question. Methods or models specifically developed to address a research question that spans across more than one research field. Brings together concepts, models or theories from more than one field to develop a new theory that extends beyond one research field. 
Encyclopaedic MDContextual MDComposite MDEmpirical IDMethodological IDTheoretical ID
Sub-projects brought together around a topic. Multiple authors contribute sections that are only linked together by the problem. Transfers an existing approach or model from one research field to solve a problem in a different research field. Starts with a broad background that brings in many research fields but ultimately focuses on only one aspect. Division-of-labour approach. Different specialisations responsible for different sections of the research and write-up. New or existing empirical data from lots of different fields integrated to solve an inter-disciplinary research question. Methods or models specifically developed to address a research question that spans across more than one research field. Brings together concepts, models or theories from more than one field to develop a new theory that extends beyond one research field. 

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal