What is collaborative, interdisciplinary reasoning? The heart of interdisciplinary team research
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What is collaborative, interdisciplinary reasoning? The heart of interdisciplinary team research


Collaborative, interdisciplinary research is growing rapidly, but we still have limited and fragmented understanding of what is arguably the heart of such research—collaborative, interdisciplinary reasoning (CIR).


This article integrates neo-Pragmatist theories of reasoning with insights from literature on interdisciplinary research to develop a working definition of collaborative, interdisciplinary reasoning. The article then applies this definition to an empirical example to demonstrate its utility.


The empirical example is an excerpt from a Toolbox workshop transcript. The article reconstructs a cogent, inductive, interdisciplinary argument from the excerpt to show how CIR can proceed in an actual team.


The study contributes operational definitions of ‘reasoning together’ and ‘collaborative, interdisciplinary reasoning’ to existing literature. It also demonstrates empirical methods for operationalizing these definitions, with the argument reconstruction providing a brief case study in how teams reason together.


1. Collaborative, interdisciplinary reasoning is the attempted integration of disciplinary contributions to exchange, evaluate, and assert claims that enable shared understanding and eventually action in a local context.
2. Pragma-dialectic argument reconstruction with conversation analysis is a method for observing such reasoning from a transcript.
3. The example team developed a strong inductive argument to integrate their disciplinary contributions about modeling.

Recommendations for Practitioners

1. Interdisciplinary work requires agreeing with teammates about what is assertible and why.
2. To assert something together legitimately requires making a cogent, integrated argument.

Recommendation for Researchers

1. An argument is the basic unit of analysis for interdisciplinary integration.
2. To assess the argument’s cogency, it is helpful to reconstruct it using pragma-dialectic principles and conversation analysis tools.
3. To assess the argument’s interdisciplinary integration and participant roles in the integration, it is helpful to graph the flow of words as a Sankey chart from participant-disciplines to the argument conclusion.

Future Research

How does this definition of CIR relate to other interdisciplinary ‘cognition’ or ‘learning’ type theories? How can practitioners and theorists tell the difference between true intersubjectivity and superficial agreeableness in these dialogues? What makes an instance of CIR ‘good’ or ‘bad’? How does collaborative, transdisciplinary reasoning differ from CIR, if at all?


Laursen, B. K. (2018). What is collaborative, interdisciplinary reasoning? The heart of interdisciplinary team science. Informing Science 21: 75-106.



April 9, 2018


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