How to start multidisciplinary research?

By Riya Jain on January 24, 2024

Multidisciplinary research work draws on knowledge and methodologies from multiple academic disciplines. Multidisciplinary research opens new gates to opportunities to explore the intersection of diverse fields and contribute to innovative knowledge. In the case of multidisciplinary research, innovating solutions for real-world problems are a major driving factor. Researchers gain insights into methodologies, tools, and theories from other disciplines. Research proposals with diverse collaborators also have a competitive edge in securing research funding.

The aim is to address complex issues that cannot be adequately explored within the confines of a single discipline. This guide aims to help navigate the process of selecting and defining a multidisciplinary thesis topic with precision and persuasion.

Researching different disciplines with collaboration

A multidisciplinary research involves varied research methodologies from different domains to improve the methodological rigour of the study. Researching potential disciplines for multidisciplinary research involves a systematic approach to identifying relevant fields of study. However, a researcher may not possess domain expertise in different domains or disciplines. In such cases, the researcher can choose to collaborate with peers who specialise in those subjects. Peers from different domains bring unique perspectives, broadening the understanding of the research problem. Diverse viewpoints contribute to a more comprehensive analysis of the research goal.

EXAMPLE

A computer scientist can collaborate with a geneticist to pursue a common goal of assessing data related to genetic disorders among subjects.

Researching different disciplines by acquiring domain expertise

Conducting multidisciplinary research also involves acquiring expertise across different domains to effectively address complex research goals. Acquiring expertise for multidisciplinary research requires a proactive and strategic approach. Cross-training opportunities that cover the foundational principles help to gain hands-on experience in different disciplines. Attending workshops and seminars in other fields can also foster the cross-pollination of ideas to gain insights into new research methodologies and approaches.

EXAMPLE

Studying human behaviour, motivations, and cognitive processes in psychology can provide valuable insights that can be applied to various aspects of marketing strategies. Incorporating psychological principles into marketing research allows for a more nuanced understanding of consumer behaviour.

Designing extended research within an established research field

Research within an established multidisciplinary field is a dynamic and collaborative process that seeks to address complex problems through an already-established integration of knowledge and methodologies from different disciplines. It involves building upon existing connections and collaborations to explore new facets of the research problem. Reflect on past collaborations to identify successful interactions and potential areas for further exploration. Identify potential collaborators, areas of research interest, skills and strategies to foster new findings from interdisciplinary interactions.

EXAMPLE

A new methodology to improve communication between researchers from different disciplines of a collaborative project aimed at assessing the impact of air pollution on respiratory health in urban areas.

Identify relevant disciplines and research questions for the proposal

Research questions should be framed after careful examination of the problem at hand. Articulate a broad research topic to benefit from insights from multiple disciplines. Determine academic disciplines that have expertise and methodologies to contribute to the topic. Consider fields that may offer different perspectives or approaches to the topic. Review existing literature in each discipline to understand key concepts, theories, and methodologies. Develop a conceptual framework that integrates key concepts from different disciplines. A conceptual framework helps the researcher to organize thoughts. Outline a detailed research proposal that includes the specific tasks and milestones for each discipline. Perdue and White (2022) and Mccombes and George (2023) recommend the following steps to craft a proposal.

  1. Before proceeding to the investigation work, understand the university guidelines like the scope, word count, deadline, research orientation, methodological conditions, or source types.
  2. Build a strong problem statement and justify the need for multidisciplinary research.
  3. Ensure that the multidisciplinary approach aligns with the requirements and regulations of the academic institution.
  4. Find the common grounds of the discipline and decide on a methodology that can integrate diverse approaches effectively. Be prepared to adapt and modify methods from various disciplines.
  5. Communicate the interdisciplinary nature of the research. Explain how each discipline contributes to the overall understanding and findings.

An example of good multidisciplinary research that combines education and technology is a thesis by Vanitha (2021). Her research was on the topic ‘Effectiveness of Blended Learning Strategy on the Achievement in Environmental Education Among B. Ed. Trainees’. It examined how Bachelor of Education trainees can use blended learning to improve teaching effectiveness in environmental education. It combined elements of smart technology, environmental sciences and education. The thesis went on to become a valuable resource for universities looking to enhance sustainability and effectiveness in their teaching methods using technology.

Overcoming uncommon challenges that are specific to a multidisciplinary research

Being aware of uncommon challenges and addressing them proactively can help navigate the complexities of multidisciplinary research more effectively. Successfully navigating multidisciplinary research requires open-mindedness, effective communication, and the ability to integrate diverse perspectives into a cohesive narrative. Simplifying the process involves breaking it down into manageable steps, staying open to adjustments, and seeking input from experts. Different disciplines will have their own jargon and terminologies. Bridging the communication gap between disciplines can be challenging. Ensuring clarity in communication is crucial. Conducting research across multiple disciplines requires more time and resources than traditional research. Managing these constraints and ensuring adequate support can become challenging over time. Some academic environments still have a traditional disciplinary focus. Encountering resistance or scepticism toward interdisciplinary research from peers or faculty members is very common.

Multidisciplinary research often covers a broad range of topics. Striking a balance between exploring different aspects and maintaining depth in each discipline will require advisors or guides from multiple disciplines. Finding advisors with expertise in all the relevant disciplines can be challenging. Be open to working with multiple advisors or seeking external guidance. Also, many academic journals and conferences may not be accustomed to multidisciplinary research. Identifying appropriate outlets for publishing can be a unique challenge.

References

  • Mccombes, S. and George, T. (2023) How to Choose a Dissertation Topic | 8 Steps to Follow , Scribbr .
  • Perdue, C. N. and White, D. (2022) Interdisciplinary Research: Overview & Advantages , Study.com.
  • Vanitha, S. T. (2021) Effectiveness of Blended Learning Strategy on the Achievement in Environmental Education Among Bed Trainees , Shodhganga .

I am a master's in Economics from Amity University. Having a keen interest in Econometrics and data analysis, I was a part of the Innovation Project of Daulat Ram College, Delhi University. My core expertise and interest are in environment-related issues. Apart from academics, I love music and exploring new places.

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