Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice

Transdisciplinary Generalism: Naming the epistemology and philosophy of the generalist

Early View

  • Author(s): Johanna M. Lynch, Christopher Dowrick, Pamela Meredith, Sue L. T. McGregor, Mieke Driel
  • Article first published online: 17 Sep 2020
  • DOI: 10.1111/jep.13446
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Abstract Background Transdisciplinary research and generalist practice both face the task of integrating and discerning the value of knowledge across disciplinary and sectoral knowledge cultures. Transdisciplinarity and generalism also both offer philosophical and practical insights into the epistemology, ontology, axiology, and logic of seeing the ‘whole’. Although generalism is a skill that can be used in many settings from industry to education, the focus of this paper is the literature of the primary care setting (i.e., general practice or family medicine). Generalist philosophy and practice in the family medicine setting highly values whole person care that uses integrative and interpretive wisdom to include both biomedical and biographical forms of knowledge. Generalist researchers are often caught between reductionist (positivist) biomedical measures and social science (post‐positivist) constructivist theories of knowing. Neither of these approaches, even when juxtaposed in mixed‐methods research, approximate the complexity of the generalist clinical encounter. A theoretically robust research methodology is needed that acknowledges the complexity of interpreting these ways of knowing in research and clinical practice. Methods A conceptual review of literature to define the alignment between (a) the philosophy and practice of generalism in primary care and (b) both the practical (Zurich) and philosophical or methodological (Nicolescuian) schools of transdisciplinarity. Results The alignment between generalism and transdisciplinarity included their broad scope, relational process, complex knowledge management, humble attitude to knowing, and real‐world outcome focus. Conclusion The concurrence between these approaches to knowing is offered here as Transdisciplinary Generalism – a coherent epistemology for both primary care researchers and generalist clinicians to understand, enact, and research their own sophisticated craft of managing diverse forms of knowledge.

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