Paradigmatic approaches to studying environment and human health: (Forgotten) implications for interdisciplinary research

Cassandra Phoenix, Nicholas J. Osborne, Clare Redshaw, Rebecca Moran, Will Stahl-Timmins, Michael H. Depledge, Lora E. Fleming, Benedict W. Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Interdisciplinary research is increasingly promoted in a wide range of fields, especially so in the study of relationships between the environment and human health. However, many projects and research teams struggle to address exactly how researchers from a multitude of disciplinary and methodological backgrounds can best work together to maximize the value of this approach to research. In this paper, we briefly review the role of interdisciplinary research, and emphasise that it is not only our discipline and methods, but our research paradigms, that shape the way that we work. We summarise three key research paradigms - positivism, postpositivism and interpretivism - with an example of how each might approach a given environment-health research issue. In turn, we argue that understanding the paradigm from which each researcher operates is fundamental to enabling and optimizing the integration of research disciplines, now argued by many to be necessary for our understanding of the complexities of the interconnections between human health and our environment as well as their impacts in the policy arena. We recognise that a comprehensive interrogation of research approaches and philosophies would require far greater length than is available in a journal paper. However, our intention is to instigate debate, recognition, and appreciation of the different worlds inhabited by the multitude of researchers involved in this rapidly expanding field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-228
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Epistemology
  • Generalizbility
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Interpretivism
  • Methodology
  • Ontology
  • Philosophy of science
  • Positivistism
  • Postpositivism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Geography, Planning and Development


Dive into the research topics of 'Paradigmatic approaches to studying environment and human health: (Forgotten) implications for interdisciplinary research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this