Academic discipline  

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An academic discipline, or field of study, is a branch of knowledge that is taught and researched at the college or university level. Disciplines are defined (in part) and recognized by the academic journals in which research is published, and the learned societies and academic departments or faculties to which their practitioners belong.

However, there exists no formal criteria for when educational programs and scholarly journals form an academic discipline. A huge difference exists between well established disciplines that exist in almost all universities all over the world having a long history, and well established set of journals and conferences, on the other hand, suggestions for new fields supported only by few universities and publications. Fields of study usually have several sub-disciplines or branches and the distinguishing lines between these are often both arbitrary and ambiguous.


The University of Paris in 1231 consisted of four faculties: Theology, Medicine, Canon Law and Arts. Most academic disciplines have their roots in the mid-to-late-19th century secularization of universities, when the traditional curricula were supplemented with non-classical languages and literatures, social sciences such as political science, economics, sociology and public administration, and natural science and technology disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering.

In the early 20th century, new disciplines such as education and psychology were added. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was an explosion of new disciplines focusing on specific themes, such as media studies, women's studies, and black studies. Many disciplines designed as preparation for careers and professions, such as nursing, hospitality management, and corrections, also emerged in the universities. Finally, interdisciplinary scientific fields such as biochemistry and geophysics gained prominence as their contribution to knowledge became widely recognized.

There is no consensus on how some academic disciplines should be classified, e.g., whether anthropology and linguistics are social sciences disciplines or humanities disciplines. More generally, the proper criteria for organizing knowledge into disciplines are also open to debate.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Academic discipline" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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