As PD scholars we are justifiably proud of the fact that we work in a multidisciplinary research area. The fact that we have researchers from International Relations, Communications, Marketing, History, Public Relations, Psychology, Rhetoric means that we have multiple perspectives on what PD is and how it works. In many respects this is a strength. In looking at an area like PD multidisciplinarity is definitely better that monodisciplinarity. However, I’m left with a nagging question how do these different perspectives fit together? Aren’t some of the insights more valuable than others? Are we describing the same phenomena in different ways? How do we link macro and micro level elements of the problem?
One of the refrains at ISA this year was that we need more case studies (for teaching as well as research) but case studies are valuable because they are a studies of a case of something that will contribute to our overall knowledge of the phenomenon. The choice of cases for investigation is driven by a theoretically informed research design.
From my perspective what PD needs is more effort to integrate, synthesize and evaluate what we know and to identify what we don’t know. This means understanding the scope conditions and applicability of the insights from different approaches. It also means trying to assess the relative importance of various factors.
The bottom line: multidisciplinarity and case studies are good but we have to think about how we organize the results in a way that can steer future research – what are the key lines of investigation that we should be opening up?