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The Classifying (Mapping) Scholarship Project

Most of my research since the late 1990s has involved developing a ‘map’ of the scholarly enterprise, comprising classifications of:
• Scholarship itself
• The Phenomena Studied by Scholars [And the relations among these]
• Data
• Types of Theory
• Methods
• Scholarly Practice (Errors and Biases that may affect scholarly outcomes)
• Ethical Perspectives

Plus a 12-step process for interdisciplinary analysis.

These classifications can guide both students and scholars as to where to look for information and insights, and provide an organizing structure on which to place (and thus recall) diverse pieces of information, without at all limiting the freedom or diversity of scholarly inquiry. They thus, I have argued, have important implications for:
• Curricular Reform
• Scholarly – especially Interdisciplinary – Research
• Information Science
• Public Policy Advice

These arguments can be found in five books and numerous articles. I provide here an overview of where certain arguments can be found, and links to some works in progress. Please do not hesitate to contact me at if you are interested in more information, or would like copies of some of the published papers.

An overview of these various classifications can be found in Classifying Science: Phenomena, Data, Theory, Method, Practice, Dordrecht: Springer, 2004.
  • Chapter 1 provides an overview of the project, and discusses how scholarship itself can be classified in terms of phenomena, data, theory, method, and practice.
  • Chapter 2 classifies phenomena, and then data, and discusses the advantages of these classifications.
  • Chapter 3 classifies types of scholarly theory, discusses the advantages of the classification, identifies key strengths and weaknesses of different theory types, and places several theories within the classification.
  • Chapter 4 classifies scholarly methods, identifies key strengths and weaknesses of these methods, and discusses the advantages of the classification.
  • Chapter 5 classifies scholarly practice (or, the errors and biases that can affect this), and discusses the advantages of this classification. Different types of ethical analysis are explored. Importantly, this chapter develops a definition of science in terms of the previous classifications of phenomena, theory, and method: science is thus defined precisely in a way that roughly equates this to ‘scholarship’. The chapter closes with a classification of types of ethical analysis.
  • Chapter 6 discusses relationships across classifications: for example, that particular methods will be biased toward supporting different types of theory.
  • Chapter 7 discusses how these classifications could be used as the basis for a superior system of scholarly document classification.
  • Chapter 8 summarizes the arguments from previous chapters, and then discusses how the classifications can inform curriculum, research, and public policy. The process of interdisciplinary research is briefly outlined.
The classification of phenomena is developed also in:
• A Schema For Unifying Human Science: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Culture. Selinsgrove PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2003. 378p.
• "Toward a Unified Human Science", Issues in Integrative Studies, 2000, pp. 115-57.
It is applied to the study of culture in A Schema for Unifying Human Science (above), to economic growth in The Causes of Economic Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (see below), and respectively to social structure, art (briefly), and health and population (again briefly) in:
• "Putting Social Structure in its Place, Schematically" Issues in Integrative Studies, 2001, pp. 171-220.,_Schematically_(Rick_Szostak).pdf
• "A Schema For Unifying Human Science: Application to Health and Population" Perspectives. Electronic journal, American Association for Behavioral and Social Sciences. 22 msp.
• "Unifying Human Science Schematically: The Case of Art", NSSA Perspectives Journal, 17:1, 2000, pp. 139-51.

More detail on these cases, as well as links to and from politics, and science and technology, are available from the author.
• The classification of phenomena is also central to Unifying Ethics (see below)
• I am intending to explore the use of this classification as an organizing device for the field of world history, using the ABC-Clio Encyclopedia of World History (to which I have contributed several articles) as a base.

The classification of theory types is developed in chapter 3 of Classifying Science (above), and also:
• "Classifying Natural and Social Scientific Theories" Current Sociology 51:1, Jan, 2003, 27-49.
• "Classifying Scientific Theories and Methods" Knowledge Organization 30:1, 20-35(2003).
• (With Claudio Gnoli) “Classifying by phenomena, theories, and methods: examples with focused social science theories,” in Culture and identity in knowledge organization, proceedings of the 10th international ISKO conference, Montréal, 2008, Würzburg: Ergon, p. 205-211.

The classification of methods is developed in chapter 4 of Classifying Science (above), and also:
• "Classifying Scientific Theories and Methods" Knowledge Organization 30:1, 20-35(2003).

The classifications of theory types and methods are applied also in The Causes of Economic Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (below), especially chapter 3.

The classification of practice is developed in chapter 5 of Classifying Science (above).

The classification of ethical perspectives is developed in chapter 5 of Classifying Science (above), as well as in:
• "Politics and the Five Types of Ethical Analysis" International Journal of Politics and Ethics 2:4, 2002, 275-90.
• Unifying Ethics (University Press of America, 2005, with financial support from the Axios Institute). In this book, this classification is combined with the classification of phenomena: this allows a comprehensive ethical survey, and the identification of an ‘ethical core’ of statements supported by each of the five main types of ethical analysis. It is argued that this approach, and especially the identification of such an 'ethical core' provides the best possible answer to the ethical challenge of our time: how to embrace diversity but also honesty, responsibility, and a host of other desirable attitudes and practices. Chapter 1 discusses the seven key characteristics of the book; Chapter 2 derives the five types of ethical analysis, shows that they are complementary, and places major philosophical arguments within these. Chapter 3 provides some epistemological and metaphysical grounding. The next ten chapters then engage in turn the ten categories of human science phenomena identified in the classification of phenomena (see above), applying the five types of ethical analysis to ethical statements involving these phenomena. Chapter 4 looks at the non-human environment; Chapter 5 genetic predispositions; Chapter 6 culture; Chapter 7 individual differences; Chapter 8 the economy; Chapter 9 politics; Chapter 10 social structure; Chapter 11 technology and science; Chapter 12 health and population; and Chapter 13 engages art. Chapter 14 provides concluding remarks, focused upon the identification of an ‘ethical core’ of statements that are supported by each of the five types of ethical analysis, and the role that such an ethical core should play.
• Restoring Human Progress (Cranmore Press, 2012). The first two chapters of this book review the literature on human progress, and especially postmodern pessimism. It is argued that works on progress tend to focus on a small subset of relevant phenomena: optimists stress economic growth while pessimists emphasize environmental deterioration. The second part of the book (nine chapters) draws on the classification of phenomena and the ethical survey of Unifying Ethics in order to perform a broad historical survey: for which phenomena are progress or regress observed historically? The third part of the book (seven chapters) then suggests policies or strategies for achieving progress where regress (or stasis) has been observed historically. [I also have a paper in Issues in Integrative Studies (2007), "Modernism, Postmodernism, and Interdisciplinarity," which outlines a set of modern, postmodern, and interdisciplinary positions on a variety of epistemological and methodological questions: these classifications are shown to be supportive of several key interdisciplinary priorities.]

The 12-step process for interdisciplinary research (which should also inform teaching) is outlined in chapter 8 of Classifying Science, and in more detail in:
• "How to Do Interdisciplinarity: Integrating the Debate", Issues in Integrative Studies. 2002.
• "Intuition and Interdisciplinarity: A Reply to Mackey", Issues in Integrative Studies. 2002.
• The case for teaching students about how to do interdisciplinarity is outlined in "How and Why to Teach Interdisciplinary Research Practice," Fall 2007, Journal of Research Practice.
• The Causes of Economic Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Berlin: Springer: is organized around these 12 steps. Note: the twelve steps were revised in some important ways between 2002 and 2009.

This book also applies in detail the classifications of phenomena, theories, and methods.

As noted above, these classifications have important implications for curricular reform, scholarly – especially interdisciplinary – research, information science, and public policy. These are discussed in chapters 7 and 8 of Classifying Science (above), and are the focus of ongoing research on my part:

These classifications are applied to curricular reform in:
• "’Comprehensive’ Curricular Reform: Providing Students With an Overview of the Scholarly Enterprise" Journal of General Education 52:1, 2003, 27-49.
• "How and Why to Teach Interdisciplinary Research Practice," Fall 2007, Journal of Research Practice.
• I have also created new courses at the University of Alberta – INTD 222 "Interdisciplinarity" and INTD 333 "Mapping Interdisciplinary Studies", and I serve as a consultant on curricular reform: These efforts will encourage the development of practical advice on using these classifications in curricular reform.

These classifications are applied to questions of how to pursue scholarly research in my home fields of economic history and economics in:
• "Economic History as It Is and Should Be; Toward an Open, Honest, Methodologically Flexible, Theoretically Diverse, Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Causes and Consequences of Economic Growth" Journal of Socio-Economics, August, 2006, 727-50.
• “Classifying Heterodoxy” Journal of Philosophical Economics 1:2, 97-126 (2008).
• The Causes of Economic Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives  (Berlin: Springer:
• “An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Heterodoxy.” Invited chapter for Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Heterodox Economics (Lee and Cronin eds., Edward Elgar publishers, 2016). 
The classification of phenomena, and strategies for interdisciplinary education, are applied in World History: A Co-Evolutionary Approach
Questions of how to pursue interdisciplinary research are addressed in:
• "How to Do Interdisciplinarity: Integrating the Debate", Issues in Integrative Studies. 2002.
• "Intuition and Interdisciplinarity: A Reply to Mackey," Issues in Integrative Studies. 2002.
• "How and Why to Teach Interdisciplinary Research Practice" Fall 2007, Journal of Research Practice.
• The Causes of Economic Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (above) [The book is structured around the 12-step process]
• Allen Repko’s Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory (Sage, 2008), the first textbook on how to perform interdisciplinary research, reprises my classifications of phenomena, theory types, and methods in detail. The book is organized around a ten-step process for interdisciplinary research which was informed by and is broadly similar to my twelve-step process. Allen invited me to join him as co-author of the third edition, published in 2016. 
• Allen Repko, Bill Newell and I have co-edited Case Studies in Interdisciplinary Research (2012, Sage). The book contains several applications of Repko's ten-step process for interdisciplinary research, including a chapter by me that summarizes and develops implications of my book on economic growth. I also wrote the introductory chapter on "The Interdisciplinary Research Process" and co-authored the Preface.
• “The State of the Field: Interdisciplinary Research” Invited contribution, Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies 31, 2013, 44-65.
• “Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Approaches to MMR” Invited chapter for the Oxford Handbook of Mixed and Multi-method Research (Hesse-Bulber and Johnson eds.), 2015

The Application of these Classifications to policy analysis is addressed in:
• "Interdisciplinarity and the Teaching of Public Policy," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 24:4 (2005). 853-63.
• "Grounding Policy Analysis in Classifications of Types of Ethical Analysis, Types of Theory, Methods, Phenomena, and Critiques of Scientific Practice" Work in progress.
• Restoring Human Progress. (Cranmore, 2012). The first parts of the book use the classifications of phenomena and types of ethical analysis to identify areas where progressive policy is needed. The third part suggests a range of progressive policies. These include the better organization and production of both scholarly understanding and policy advice through the use of these classifications and those of theory types and methods.

Last but far from least, I increasingly believe that interdisciplinary research can and should be aided by the development of a new system of document classification that would classify works in terms of universal classifications of phenomena studied, and theories and methods applied:
• Chapter 7 of Classifying Science addressed this issue.
• "Classifying Scientific Theories and Methods" Knowledge Organization 2003, 30:1, 20-35.
• "Interdisciplinarity and the Classification of Scholarly Documents by Phenomena, Theories, and Methods" in Blanca Rodriguez Bravo and Luisa Alvite Diez, eds., Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity in the Organization of Scientific Knowledge: Actas de VIII Congreso ISKO-Espana. Leon: University of Leon, 2007, 469-77. [This paper summarizes arguments regarding the desirability and feasibility of such a classification.]
• Ideas from this paper and others were combined in the Leon Manifesto, available on the websites of ISKO Italy (, ISKO Spain, and others. The manifesto calls for a new system of classification with the elements outlined above.
• "Classification, Interdisciplinarity, and the Study of Science," Journal of Documentation 64:3, 319-32 (2008). [This article provides a philosophical justification for the classification.] See also: “Interdisciplinarity and Classification: A Reply to Hjørland” Journal of Documentation 64:4, 2008.
• (With Claudio Gnoli) “Classifying by phenomena, theories, and methods: examples with focused social science theories,” in Culture and identity in knowledge organization, proceedings of the 10th international ISKO conference, Montréal, 2008, Würzburg: Ergon, p. 205-211.
• “Complex Concepts into Basic Concepts” Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology. See also "Comment on Hjørland’s Concept Theory” (letter to editor), Jrnl Amer Soc Information Science & Technology 61:5,1076-7 (2010). [These papers provide a further philosophical rationale, and the former outlines the broad shape of the Basic Concepts Classification.]
• I contribute to the Integrative Levels Classification project at
• Classifying RelationshipsKnowledge Organization 39:3, May, 2012, 165-78.  Develops a classification of the relationships among phenomena.
• Toward a Classification of Relationships.” Knowledge Organization 39:2, March, 2012, 83-94.
• "Classifying for Social Diversity" Knowledge Organization 41:2, 160-70.   March, 2014. 
"Skepticism and Knowledge Organization" in Wieslaw Babik, ed., Knowledge Organization in the 21st Century: Between Historical Patterns and Future Prospects. Proceedings of the 13th ISKO Conference, Krakow, May, 2014. 
"The Basic Concepts Classification as a Bottom-up Strategy for the Semantic WebInternational Journal of Knowledge Content Development & Technology June, 2014. This paper discusses how the BCC might serve the ontology needs of the Semantic Web.
• "A Pluralist Approach to the Philosophy of Classification" Paper in preparation for a special issue of Library Trends on philosophy of information science (publication expected Feb 2015).  Provides several more criteria by which this sort of classification system can be positively evaluated.
"Classifying the Humanities"  Knowledge Organization 41:4 (2014).
"Classifying Authorial Perspective" Knowledge Organization 42:7 (2015). We can draw upon the terminology developed for subject classification to also capture the perspective pursued by an author.
"Poly-coordination.” Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, Calgary, June 2016. We can have the precision of pre-coordination and ease-of-use of post-coordination if we employ a structured synthetic approach to classification.

The paper (with Claudio Gnoli), "Universality is Inescapable," presented at the ASIST special interest group on classification research (Seattle, Nov. 1, 2014), and published in Advances in Classification Research, discusses the value of a universal classification (such as BCC), especially in the contemporary digital age. It then proposes a range of empirical tests to establish the feasibility of a classification such as BCC.

My co-authored book with Claudio Gnoli and Maria Lopez-Huertas, Interdisciplinary Knowledge Organization (Berlin: Springer, 2016) develops a detailed justification for a general classification grounded in phenomena rather than disciplines. 

I also have three papers which discuss how the BCC could be used not just to classify published documents but also museum artifacts, works of art, and archival materials. These papers address a desire to integrate access across GLAM: galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. These papers review the classification systems employed across GLAM, and classify a sample of works of art, museum artifacts, and archival documents: 

 “Synthetic classification of museum artifacts using basic concepts.” Proceedings of the Museums and the Web conference, Los Angeles, April, 2016.

 "Employing a Synthetic Approach to Subject Classification across Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums," Proceedings of the International Society for Knowledge Organization conference, Rio de Janeiro, Sept., 2016.

“A Grammatical Approach to Subject Classification in Museums,” Knowledge Organization 44:7, 494-505, 2017. This last paper discusses in some detail how museum objects might be classified.

I continue to pursue the research project, Revolutionizing the Classification of Scholarly Documents, which will flesh out in detail how (at first, social science) material can be classified in a universal scheme which accords with the standards called for in the Leon Manifesto. Particular attention will be paid to how works can be classified not only in terms of the phenomena they study and the relationships among these but also the theories and methods and perspectives applied. A link to the emerging Basic Concepts Classification can be found under “Works in Progress” on my Publications webpage. An outline of how various publications justify and support the Basic Concepts Classification can be found under Published Works that Support the BCC.