Classifying the disciplinarity of engineering academic literature

Susan Lattanzio*, Nataliya Mogles, Emily Carey, Alex Kharlamov, Glenn Parry, Ben Hicks, Linda Newnes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

6 Citations (Scopus)


Based on the appearance of the term within the academic literature, it would appear that transdisciplinarity (TD) approaches are receiving increased research attention. However, the literature suggests a lack of consensus over how TD is defined and classified. This could give rise to inconsistency and papers that claim to be TD which are not, and alternatively papers that fail to mention TD but which might be classified as such. This is significant and creates a challenge in identifying the true level of TD research. This work contributes towards understanding the state of TD within engineering. Explicitly, we address the research question: Is the engineering academic literature claiming to be TD, actually TD? Within this study we operationalise the work of Jantsch and use this as a means to classify the disciplinarity of 177 engineering journal papers which reference TD within their abstract. The results show only 24% to be TD. The majority (64%) are classified as interdisciplinary. Conclusions find that to improve consistency, a clear definition and rules for differentiation between TD and ID research are required. Future work calls for: (1) comparative studies which apply different methods for assessing disciplinarity across the dataset used within this study and which use the method employed within this study across different fields. (2) Research to analyse whether TD working is being undertaken in engineering without it being referenced within the paper.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransdisciplinary Engineering for Complex Socio-Technical Systems - Real-Life Applications - Proceedings of the 27th ISTE International Conference on Transdisciplinary Engineering
EditorsJerzy Pokojski, Maciej Gil, Linda Newnes, Josip Stjepandic, Nel Wognum
PublisherIOS Press
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781614994398
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2020
Event27th ISTE International Conference on Transdisciplinary Engineering, TE 2020 - Virtual, Online, Poland
Duration: 1 Jul 202010 Jul 2020

Publication series

NameAdvances in Transdisciplinary Engineering


Conference27th ISTE International Conference on Transdisciplinary Engineering, TE 2020
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work reported in this paper was undertaken as part of the Designing the Future: Resilient Trans-Disciplinary Design Engineers Project, at the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Surrey. The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Grant EP/R013179/1.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The authors and IOS Press.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Content Analysis
  • Disciplinarity
  • Trans-disciplinarity
  • Transdisciplinary
  • Transdisciplinary Engineering


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