Kevin Hans Waitkuweit, Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Connections across disciplines fortify methodological applications in real-world settings. International development presents a prime space at the nexus of the academic and real world. Through various forms of applied research, international development practitioners engage with many topics, from macro-level systems, such as agriculture and economics, to micro-level phenomena, such as refugee experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder and gendered social interactions. Unsurprisingly, the resulting breadth of potential research areas creates space for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary engagement among a contrasting group of scholars.

As a former international development practitioner, I was always fascinated by discussions among program personnel from various organizations regarding research methods. These conversations were where I recognized how the field of international development is rife with different teachings, pieces of training, and dogmas among development researchers. Whether it be rural sociologists, agricultural economists, or environmental scientists, discussing methods and methodologies employed in applied research requires finesse among project personnel to discuss the optimal research methodology for any given project. In my experience, such conversations were fruitful in elucidating gaps between disciplines and demonstrating the value of compromising to ensure the most effective research for any project occurs.

The areas of these gaps became of particular interest to me, as an aspiring methodologist, since it was apparent that international development, unlike other disciplines/research paradigms, did not have a uniform space to foster methodological discussions among the multitude of scholars and applied researchers who engage in international development research. Thus, as a research community, the question for international development practitioners becomes one of where such a space can exist. Where can conversations among the pantheon of disciplines that international development encompasses come to engage in much-needed conversations around methodology?

Such methodological discussions, I posit, will undoubtedly need to include details on how to train and teach research methods to the various individuals engaging in international development programming. Despite international development being commonly viewed as interdisciplinary, some development scholars note that international development disciplines are often entrenched in their own literature, as noted by the citations of their publications lacking references to similar work in other disciplines (Mitra, Palmer, & Vuong, 2020). Although the true nature of interdisciplinarity in international development is complex and perhaps limited, useful discourse exists regarding such interdisciplinary work. Global studies scholars call for a transdisciplinary approach to development research (see Darian-Smith & McCarty, 2016, 2017) to advance collaboration across global development actors regardless of discipline.

In supporting such research on methods, global studies scholars present a framework for development practitioners to explore the prospect of creating much-needed academic literature on the methodological techniques and paradigms applicable to international development research. Although not ascribing to the “discipline-less” approach of some recent global studies scholarship (Shamier & Veracini, 2018), I posit there exists potential to foster collaborative discussions around research methods, methodology, and training, which could bridge applied scholars facing similar research problems in the field. The very space where discipline-lessness is present is possibly a liminal space for discussions.

Even though my original call for a shared methodological space did not engage with global studies literature (see Waitkuweit, 2023), I posit that the positions of global studies scholars and my own are similar. Both call for increased discourse among scholars across disciplines. The difference in my specific claim is that there should be an intellectual space where different disciplines can engage in discussions of training and teaching methods and methodological issues in international development programming. Such a space would not remove the disciplinary divides but instead, work towards fostering a shared pedagogical approach for teaching international development research. More specifically, it would foster conversations to overcome the similar issues different disciplines face in international development. Ultimately, there exists potential to navigate the complex relationships among the disciplines engaging in international development work, where the space is “discipline-less” while aspiring to address training gaps in international development research.


This blog is based off: Waitkuweit, K. H. (2023). Teaching international development: a proposal for consolidating practitioner and academic training resources. Development in Practice, 33(6), 736-741.



Darian-Smith, E., & McCarty, P. (2016). Beyond interdisciplinarity: Developing a global transdisciplinary framework. Transcience: A Journal of Global Studies7(2), 1-26.

Darian-Smith, E., & McCarty, P. C. (2017). The Global Turn: Theories, Research Designs, and Methods for Global Studies. Univ of California Press.

Mitra, S., Palmer, M., & Vuong, V. (2020). Development and interdisciplinarity: a citation analysis. World Development135, 105076.

Shamier, C., & Veracini, L. (2018). The global turn: theories, research designs, and methods for global studies. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41(8), 1536–1539.

Waitkuweit, K. H. (2023). Teaching international development: a proposal for consolidating practitioner and academic training resources. Development in Practice, 33(6), 736-741.