The Problem

The body of literature across social science disciplines is vast, too extensive for any author or team of expert researchers to consume and consider when developing research theory and literature reviews. Unfortunately, many researchers are stuck in the knowledge “bubble” of their fields, and other fields are often discounted as contributing anything significant to the phenomena in which they are interested. Often, researchers developing theories and projects are not even aware of the previously published research or literature on the phenomena by experts in other disciplines. Hence, many studies are only marginally informed on the previous literature surrounding their topic of research.  

A Solution

Each scientific discipline describes phenomena in unique ways with its own vocabulary and foundational theories. This can create a pedagogical and epistemological gap resulting in further isolation between disciplines as well as a perceived lack of knowledge or research about phenomena by researchers in one discipline when it may actually exist in a different discipline. Therefore, a cross-discipline, thorough matrix of terminologies used by each discipline describing or naming the same general theories and phenomena may be of great utility. Such a matrix should be a quick and easy-to-use reference for any researcher looking to discover what other fields have written or are writing about the phenomena they are studying.

The Interdisciplinary Terminology of Social Scientific Theory and Phenomena (ITSSTAP) is meant to bridge the knowledge gap by providing a basic vocabulary of how each social science discipline refers to the same human social phenomena and the foundational theories surrounding those phenomena. Researchers in all fields of social science are encouraged to review research and knowledge from other disciplines regarding the phenomena under study. By referencing ITSSTAP when developing research projects, researchers are better equipped to use the terminologies from multiple disciplines to search for previous literature on the phenomena under review.

Broader Impact

By illuminating theories and terminology that address equivalent scientific phenomena and methodologies across disciplines, researchers should be better informed on their topics of study from multiple perspectives, which should lead to better science and ultimately present a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomena in question. Because scientific research is often what human societies use to make highly impactful decisions about policies, laws, and leadership, the most comprehensive and informed science, based on multiple perspectives and disciplines, should provide the most informed platform on which to make decisions.  



Call for Contribution

How does your field talk about particular human cognitive and behavioral phenomena?

What foundational theories or papers have been published in your field regarding such phenomena?

This interdisciplinary, meta-research project aims at shifting traditional academic boundaries through cross-discipline participation. Any researchers or professors of social science subjects interested in increasing positive engagement between disciplines and between researchers are encouraged to contribute. We are looking for insight into terminology or vocabulary related to specific human phenomena, as well as references to seminal papers and theories, which may be placed in the ITSSTAP matrix. Please email to become part of this important meta-research project.


Current Contributors

  • Jeremy Pollack: Evolutionary Anthropology, Research Fellow, Stanford University
  • Allen S. Weiner: Law & Conflict Resolution, Senior Lecturer, Stanford University