The various disciplines in the social and human sciences have each built up their own worlds of theory, each designed to clarify a selected aspect or aspects of life. But if one wishes to understand a particular person, group, locality or country, a particular situation, one must become ‘interdisciplinary’: one must attend to diverse aspects and how they interrelate. This chapter explores the problematique of interdisciplinarity and asks that doctoral researchers give careful thought to how their own research might benefit from an interdisciplinary approach. If, for example, one studies the impacts of education in and on the state of Kerala in India, one cannot sensibly ignore cultural impacts, such that almost no one with a certain amount of schooling will now do heavy manual work: a major economic fact as well as educational fact. Similar considerations apply when we consider interdisciplinarity in policy-oriented research, including in the field of education. Much policy-oriented research is again situation- and context- focused, although some aspires to widely applicable generalizations. If we find, for example, that in Indonesia private school graduates earn more, and have also learnt more, more cost-effectively, than state school graduates (Bedi & Garg, 2000), we cannot directly conclude a need for greater private participation in the education sector, without also giving attention to issues such as future brain-drain, nationbuilding, willingness to work in priority sectors, and possibilities for reforming state schools.

ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Gasper, D. (2010). Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity. In The Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion: Getting to grips with research in education and the social sciences, edited by Pat Thomson & Melanie Walker, 2010: London: Routledge (pp. 70–85). Retrieved from