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Classification of Academic Discipline

Classification of Academic Discipline

The Becher-Biglan typology is a classification system developed by J. Becher and A. Biglan in the early 1990s, which categorizes academic disciplines into four types based on the nature of their knowledge: pure hard, pure soft, applied hard, and applied soft. This typology helps to understand the different ways in which knowledge is created, disseminated, and utilized across various academic fields.

Pure hard disciplines are those that are heavily based on quantitative methods and rely on empirical evidence to establish facts. These disciplines often deal with the physical world and natural phenomena, and examples include physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The nature of knowledge in pure hard disciplines is objective, empirical, and quantitative. The knowledge generated in these disciplines is often based on empirical observations and experiments, and it is considered reliable because it is based on repeatable and measurable phenomena. In pure hard disciplines, knowledge is often abstract and theoretical, and it is used to develop models and theories that help to explain the behavior of natural phenomena.

Pure soft disciplines, on the other hand, are based on qualitative methods and deal with subjective human experiences and social phenomena. Examples of pure soft disciplines include anthropology, sociology, and psychology. The nature of knowledge in pure soft disciplines is subjective, qualitative, and interpretive. Knowledge in these disciplines is often based on observation, interpretation, and analysis of human behavior, and it is considered reliable because it is based on the experiences and perceptions of individuals. In pure soft disciplines, knowledge is often descriptive and exploratory, and it is used to understand the complex social, cultural, and psychological processes that shape human behavior.

Applied hard disciplines are those that apply the knowledge and methods of pure hard disciplines to solve practical problems. Examples of applied hard disciplines include engineering, medicine, and computer science. The nature of knowledge in applied hard disciplines is both empirical and practical. Knowledge in these disciplines is often based on the application of scientific principles and methods to solve practical problems, and it is considered reliable because it is based on proven scientific theories and empirical evidence. In applied hard disciplines, knowledge is often focused on solving real-world problems and developing technologies that can improve people’s lives.

Applied soft disciplines, on the other hand, apply the knowledge and methods of pure soft disciplines to solve practical problems. Examples of applied soft disciplines include education, social work, and communication studies. The nature of knowledge in applied soft disciplines is both practical and interpretive. Knowledge in these disciplines is often based on the interpretation of social and cultural phenomena and the application of theories and concepts to address practical problems. In applied soft disciplines, knowledge is often focused on developing strategies and interventions that can improve people’s lives and promote social justice.

In summary, the Becher-Biglan typology provides a useful framework for understanding the nature of knowledge across different academic disciplines. Pure hard disciplines focus on objective, empirical, and quantitative knowledge, while pure soft disciplines focus on subjective, qualitative, and interpretive knowledge. Applied hard disciplines apply the knowledge of pure hard disciplines to solve practical problems, while applied soft disciplines apply the knowledge of pure soft disciplines to solve practical problems. Understanding these different types of knowledge can help us appreciate the diversity of academic disciplines and the unique ways in which they contribute to our understanding of the world.

 

Waeza Afshan

Assistant Professor

Department of Education,

PWC

waeza.pwc@gmail.com