Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Importance of Paying Attention to other Disciplines

Yesterday over at the UNL Grad Student blog we had a discussion about cross-disciplinary research, with emphasis on its ability to help us answer "bigger" questions than would be afforded by staying only within political science. I was just reminded of this today when I was out perusing the computer science/information systems literature (a seeming prerequisite for a person interested in the intersection of tech/society/politics) and found this article on patterns of the news cycle among blogs and the mainstream media. Simply put, had I not exited the safe shell of the political communication literature, I'd never have discovered what I think is going to be an important article for one of my interests. And I'm almost certain that this research is probably unknown to others with similar interests.

Now, as a graduate student who is just nearing the halfway point of studies I haven't had too many chances to look to other disciplines for guidance or ideas, though this is going to quickly change with many of my program's requirements now safely out of the way. I'd be interested in hearing what both faculty and other grad students have experienced in terms of cross-disciplinary research. I.e., how has it affected your research? What are the pitfalls of these approaches?

1 comment:

  1. This is a good question, Mike.

    I'll say that I try to do research outside of my own subfield and I think that the sorts of questions that grab my attention tend to be those that are cross-disciplinary. In my first book, you'll find that I cite political theorists, legal scholars, sociologists, and even some evolutionary biology literature.

    That said, it's incredibly difficult to do research outside of one's own discipline and to do it well. Frankly, there's just *too* much out there to keep track of it all. Whenever I go outside of political theory, I feel myself a bit out of my depth. That can certainly be a good thing, as I'm challenging myself and learning something new. But I think there are also limits to how interesting I can be when I'm writing about something that I'm just learning myself...