Table 1. Spectrum of disciplinary integration in scientific research based on the literature referenced.

Disciplinary Multidisciplinary Interdisciplinary Transdisciplinary
Integration vocabulary Independent:
self-reliant and autonomous
work together, join forces, team up, and cooperate
organized, synchronized, harmonized, and mutual
joint, shared, collective, and transcending
Level of interaction Researchers conduct independent research. Team members cooperatively conduct research in parallel. Team members coordinate frequently and consistently throughout the project. Team members act, plan, and combine research as a collective.
Problem definition Guided by disciplinary paradigm Usually guided by one disciplinary paradigm and often framed by lead discipline Mutually developed by researchers from multiple disciplines Transcends disciplinary boundaries; context-specific with multiple stakeholder perspectives
Epistemology Researchers rely on disciplinary epistemology. Team members rely on disciplinary epistemology, but of differing paradigms. Team members may rely on disciplinary epistemology, but must accept the validity of different paradigms. Team members rely on a transcendent or common epistemology that reflects the nature of the problem definition.
Design, research questions, methods, and theory Researchers use traditional disciplinary approaches. Team members use traditional disciplinary approaches; research questions and scales are framed by the discipline that defined the problem. Team members coordinate research design, questions, methods, and theory; temporal and spatial scales and conceptual frameworks are synchronized. Team members develop new conceptual framework that transcends disciplinary boundaries; research design, questions, methods, and scales are collectively developed.
Knowledge created within discipline, and conclusions may generate new disciplinary research questions Knowledge created within disciplines, but conclusions may generate research questions that are applicable to other disciplines Knowledge created that may impact knowledge structures in all disciplines; conclusions generate new types of interdisciplinary research questions Knowledge restructured through the creation of new shared knowledge; conclusions drive new theoretical frameworks and areas of research
Products Disciplinary; for disciplinary journals Disciplinary or summary of combined disciplinary findings; for disciplinary journals Joint synthesis manuscripts; for interdisciplinary journals Joint synthesis manuscripts that transcend disciplinary orientations; for interdisciplinary journals