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The kaleidoscope of disciplinarity

Cassidy R. Sugimoto (School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, United States)
Scott Weingart (School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, United States)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 13 July 2015




The purpose of this paper is to identify criteria for and definitions of disciplinarity, and how they differ between different types of literature.


This synthesis is achieved through a purposive review of three types of literature: explicit conceptualizations of disciplinarity; narrative histories of disciplines; and operationalizations of disciplinarity.


Each angle of discussing disciplinarity presents distinct criteria. However, there are a few common axes upon which conceptualizations, disciplinary narratives, and measurements revolve: communication, social features, topical coherence, and institutions.


There is considerable ambiguity in the concept of a discipline. This is of particular concern in a heightened assessment culture, where decisions about funding and resource allocation are often discipline-dependent (or focussed exclusively on interdisciplinary endeavors). This work explores the varied nature of disciplinarity and, through synthesis of the literature, presents a framework of criteria that can be used to guide science policy makers, scientometricians, administrators, and others interested in defining, constructing, and evaluating disciplines.



The authors would like to thank S. Craig Finlay for his research assistance in earlier stages of this work.


Sugimoto, C.R. and Weingart, S. (2015), "The kaleidoscope of disciplinarity", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 71 No. 4, pp. 775-794.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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