What is the term when a researcher uses theory/tools generated in an unrelated field?

Say, for example, marketing folks use "ethnography" and "ethnographic research" to explain and understand marketing phenomena?

Or, researchers in business supply chain use economics' principal-agent theory for their own needs.

2 Answers 2


I think one way to express the concept is "borrowing" theory:

  • One common approach scholars use in management studies to develop theory is what Iwill call ‘borrowing’, i.e. bringing ideas from one theoretical domain to address an issue or explain a phenomenon in another domain.


Did Charles Darwin 'borrow' the theory of natural selection?

  • When Charles Darwin published ‘On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection’ in 1859 one Scottish fruit farmer was, understandably, rather put out.Decades before, Patrick Matthew had written a book in which he described ‘the natural process of selection’ explaining how ‘a law universal in nature’ ensured the survival of the fittest.Darwin, although accepting that Matthew ‘anticipated’ the theory, always denied plagiarism, maintaining that he arrived at the theory independently. Now, one academic believes that Darwin must not only have been aware of Matthew’s work, but borrowed from it heavily.


  • This isn't a cat license. It's a dog license with the word "dog" crossed out and the word "cat" written in in crayon.
    – TimR
    Nov 11, 2015 at 14:15

I think these are different enough from Josh61's posted words. You may want to consider the following:

  1. Interdisciplinary
  2. Multidisciplinary
  3. Cross-disciplinary

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