Defining "Integration"

Integration, as we have seen, is a critical element of interdisciplinary practice. Indeed it is integration that arguably distinguishes interdisciplinarity from multidisciplinarity. Integration has several key elements:

·         Synthesis or blending of (critically evaluated) insights from multiple disciplines or authors or groups

·         Creation of common ground  [See Defining "Common Ground"]

·         Creation of a more holistic and comprehensive understanding [See Defining "More Comprehensive Understanding"]

·         An ongoing process

·         Focused on a particular question

 [Some scholars do not emphasize integration when speaking of interdisciplinarity. They worry that different perspectives may be incommensurate and thus integration exceedingly limited if not impossible.  Alternatively, they may worry that there are many possible integrations in any situation. Such scholars often still do valuable work in carefully outlining the distinctions among different disciplines or schools of thought.  For example, Lisa Lattuca Creating Interdisciplinarity: Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching Among College and University Faculty Vanderbilt University Press, 2001. Or Raymond C Miller, International Political Economy Routledge, 2008.    For most interdisciplinarians, however, research that eschews integration is multidisciplinarity (see Defining Multidisciplinarity and Cross-disciplinarity). They hope that over time the empirical evidence will mount that integration is both possible and valuable.]


Bergmann, Matthias Thomas JahnTobias KnoblochWolfgang KrohnChristian PohlEngelbert Schramm (2012) Methods for Transdisciplinary Research: A Primer for Practice. Berlin: Campus. speak of three types of integration. Epistemic integration is what we have defined above.  Strategic integration largely focuses on communication challenges; we will address these concerns under Interdisciplinary Communication. Organizational integration addresses all of the problems in team research; see Forming a Successful Research Team. On this website we will mean epistemic integration unless we indicate otherwise.