How to conduct multidisciplinary research?

By Riya Jain on November 21, 2023

To supplement the growing industrial demand for multi-skilled personnel, more universities have started encouraging multidisciplinary research and courses. Multidisciplinary research or course is one that integrates two or more areas of specialisation. Such courses were rare before, but have picked up pace in recent years. This article enlists the conditions for conducting groundbreaking multidisciplinary research and making valuable contributions to solving real-world problems.


Developing sustainable technology may require experts not only from engineering but also from economics.

For higher educational institutions, the two biggest challenges are knowledge transfer and skill development. For multidisciplinary courses, demonstrating how two areas of knowledge can come together and be applied practically is challenging.


An engineer’s goal is to maximise the efficiency of a product whereas for designers the goal is to make it as visually appealing as possible. On the other hand, for operations managers, the concern is supply chain optimisation so they prefer raw materials which can be procured quickly. This clash of disciplines is exactly what happened at Apple Inc. when Steve Jobs was designing the iPhone.

In response to such challenges, multidisciplinary researchers are creating groundbreaking theses and dissertations that are relevant in the real world and also contribute significantly academically. In this context “groundbreaking” refers to an offer that answers the research question and has some practical contribution to businesses. On the other hand, the university’s responsibility is to upskill students and enable them to conduct such groundbreaking multidisciplinary research.

Skills needed for multidisciplinary research

The problems and the issues in the modern world are more complex, which makes working in silos redundant. Complex problems like creating healthcare solutions require the collaboration of experts from different fields such as:

  1. Sharing key discipline aspects with collaborators: One of the key requirements of conducting multidisciplinary research is to identify potentially good collaborators. Even if the disciplines are completely unrelated, it helps to have an element of commonality.

An expert in healthcare sciences routinely analyses healthcare datasets to find disease trends. On the other hand, an expert in statistics does not specialise in healthcare datasets but is versatile in testing. Therefore, since they have statistical analysis as a skill in common, they can ideally collaborate to work on “predicting the risk of breast cancer”.

  1. Communicate in layman’s language: The usage of unnecessary jargon and complex words prevents optimal communication between collaborators. It could also potentially result in deviation of the researchers from their goal. As the collaborators are from diverse backgrounds and geographies there is a need to develop the skill of communicating with a wider audience to enable the collaborators to understand the research goal and its findings.
  2. Selection of broader thinking instead of a narrow focus point: Multidisciplinary research is used for solving broader issues with a larger impact. Researchers therefore have a broad approach throughout the study.

While creating a thesis on “predicting the risk of breast cancer”, there should be equal emphasis on medical aspects like indicators of breast cancer and statistical aspects like dataset characteristics.

  1. Open-mind-based approach: A multidisciplinary researcher must have an open mind and be considerate of the suggestions of the collaborators. This helps them align their goals fruitfully.

Steps to follow while conducting multidisciplinary research

  • Step 1: Identify disciplines that intersect with each other by conducting a thorough review of literature, consulting with experts, and attending seminars or workshops on multidisciplinary research.
  • Step 2: Select a transformative research problem which is common in interdisciplinary fields.

Problems with far-reaching environmental, economic, or societal aspects like inequality, public health crisis, energy sustainability, or climate change are common to economics and social sciences.

  • Step 3: Conduct a literature review using academic databases, search engines, and library resources to define the themes or topics. Videos offer good advice on using literature review tools through different stages of the study. The goal should be to arrive at a reasonable yet crucial research problem by reviewing existing literature.
  • Step 4: Develop a robust conceptual framework and methodology by integrating concepts from the chosen disciplines in visual form like a matrix or a flow diagram. They must show how the different disciplines intersect and connect to the main research problem. This will help define the research questions and hypotheses.
  • Step 5: Consider the ethics in multidisciplinary research like informed consent, maintaining privacy and confidentiality standards. Be considerate of the norms, cultures, and traditions, cultures of different communities. Avoid disclosing information having a conflict of interest, addressing intellectual property licenses and rights, and facilitating open communication between different discipline team members.

Creative presentation of multidisciplinary findings


Although healthcare experts do not excel at mathematical algorithms, they may want to draw insights from them.

In such scenarios, visual representations using graphics, animations, 3D models, prototyping and multimedia representations help visualize the investigation from a rudimentary perspective. Many tools are available for developing visual representations to simplify complications such as mindmaps and Adobe Illustrator.


  • Ackerman, E. (2023) Boston Dynamics’ Founder on the Future of Robotics Marc Raibert believes robots can do more than dance, IEEE Spectrum. Available at:
  • Boston Dynamics AI Institute (2023) The AI Institute. Available at:
  • Charlesworth Author Services (2021) Skills needed for Multidisciplinary Research, Charlesworth Author Services.
  • Durganjali, C. S. et al. (2020) ‘Recent Developments and Future Advancements in Solar Panels Technology’, Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1495. doi: 10.1088/1742-6596/1495/1/012018.
  • Gostimskaya, I. (2022) ‘CRISPR–Cas9: A History of Its Discovery and Ethical Considerations of Its Use in Genome Editing’, Biochemistry (Moscow), 87(8), pp. 777–788.
  • House, B. (2019) 2012?: A Breakthrough Year for Deep Learning, Medium. Available at:
  • Kanamori, Y. and Yoo, S.-M. (2020) ‘Quantum Computing?: Principles and Applications’, Journal of International Technology and Information Management, 29(2), pp. 43–71.
  • Lecun, Y., Bengio, Y. and Hinton, G. (2015) ‘Deep learning’, Nature, 521, pp. 436–444. doi: 10.1038/nature14539.
  • Pessoa, R. S. and Fraga, M. A. (2023) ‘Recent Advances in Solar Cells for Aerospace Applications?: Materials and Technologies’, Journal of Aerospace Technology and Management, 15(April). doi: 10.1590/jatm.v15.1296.
  • Sati, P., Kumari, A. and Kumar, S. (2023) ‘Solar energy advancements and their environmental impacts’, Futuristic Trends in Renewable & Sustainable Energy, 2(March), pp. 62–76.
  • Ursi, L. et al. (2022) ‘Factors Influencing Interdisciplinary Research and Industry-Academia Collaborations at Six European Universities?: A Qualitative Study, Sustainability, 14(9306).
  • Wang, H. and Raj, B. (2017) ‘On the Origin of Deep Learning’, arXiv.
  • Zhahir, A. A. et al. (2022) ‘Quantum Computing and Its Application’, International Journal of Advanced Research in Technology and Innovation, 4(1), pp. 55–65.