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How to be Interdisciplinary?

You might like to think about Interdisciplinarity as a journey, exploring what it means to have an interdisciplinary mindset with 3 steps

Re-search

Step 1 is all about challenging your preconceived notions of disciplines and definitions outside of your own. Since starting at Warwick you have been immersed in teaching and learning that allowed you to develop a disciplinary language, set of meanings and interpretations of things around you, all related to your academic subject. This is to give you a strong foundation from which to explore and create an academic experience that matches your interests and ambitions.

Growing an interdisciplinary mindset means being brave and giving yourself the permission to think outside of the box and the boundaries of your degree (Warwick students and graduates are known for and sought after exactly because of this). It is about switching perspective and stepping out into the new areas of your discipline or an entirely new and understudied area that excites you.

  • Consider the notion of 'environment'. It is often interpreted as 'the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates'. How do you and your discipline interpret and study 'environment'? Are there other ways in which you can define and study 'environment'? How are these connected to your own and disciplinary definitions?

Have you started questioning a topic, an issue, or the way your discipline interprets a particular phenomenon? You are on the right track and ready to move to the next step!

Connect

Step 2 is starting to look for and spotting the missing pieces of a puzzle in your questioning, and then adding those pieces in. This step might feel unusual and at times uncomfortable. This is a sign you are truly stepping out of your disciplinary comfort zone. There is nothing wrong with challenging ideas and work that you think can be viewed differently or connected with other ways of thinking.

  • Let's take the ecology definition of environment and begin to question what contributed to the declining state of global environment. It won't take us long to see that we cannot understand the phenomenon fully without connecting the history, economics, geography and politics of global development, human behaviour, education, technological advancements, just to name a few.

Are there patterns, discrepancies, unresolved conflicts, overlaps between the ideas you are coming across your studies and what interests you outside of your degree or from your personal research? What does that suggest? What new ideas does that bring about? Have we considered multiple viewpoints? Where else do we need to search and look for the missing pieces of information?

Enhance

Step 3 is making impact by challenging the status quo. It is advancing the knowledge and way of thinking towards a more holistic and relevant to the complexities of the world as we know it solutions and answers.

  • Using the same notion of 'environment' consider how ongoing environment research and policy can be interpreted in an art form and communicated to the public in a way that allows them to relate to environmental issues on a psychological level? This is an example of several disciplines and schools of thought weaved together to challenge and impact a complex issue.

Where do you see yourself challenging the status quo? How has a new perspective enhanced your view of your discipline? What conclusions can you draw from this? Can these add to the current way of thinking? How does that grow you as a student, scholar, member of society, and most importantly, as a person?

Ready to get stuck in? Ask your department about the opportunities available to you and explore the Get Started! page to Re-search, Connect & Enhance.

Don't forget to check out the events open to students from ALL disciplines available throughout the academic year on MyWarwick webpage or simply download the My Warwick app where you can customise your news and events feed to create your own interdisciplinary experience.

If you are a postgraduate student you can also check out a dedicated PG news and events calendar here.