What is the name of the field of scientific study which covers "the process of diagnosing the cause of problems", independent of any specific knowledge domain? i.e. it would cover the common elements (like diagnostic tests) that occur whether you are seeking to diagnose a disease or debug a computer program.

  • 1
    Not a single word, but the activity is usually referred to as causal analysis Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


This is the field of abductive reasoning

Abductive reasoning (also called abduction, abductive inference, or retroduction) is a form of logical inference which starts with an observation then seeks to find the simplest and most likely explanation.


In medicine:-

A medical diagnosis is an application of abductive reasoning: given this set of symptoms, what is the diagnosis that would best explain most of them?

(Butte College)

In program debugging:-

Program debugging is an abductive task in which a problem solver attempts to find an explanation (eg., a line of code) for certain symptoms (e.g., an error message).

(Complex Problem Solving: The European Perspective)

  • Yes it was the best I could find when I researched it.
    – Gary
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 2:15

Maintenance engineering

The major maintenance engineering contributions to a materiel program are to insure that the materiel is designed for ease and economy of support, to define and develop an adequate and economic maintenance support subsystem that will be available when the materiel is deployed, and to monitor and improve the subsystem until the materiel is removed from the inventory. Design for ease and economy of support is obtained by determining optimum levels of materiel reliability, maintainability, human factors, safety, and transportability design features, and transmitting these features as requirements to design engineers.

Emphasis mine.


In addition to diagnostic systems, maintenance engineering deals with issues of reliability, self sufficiency vs depot repair, and the overall state of readiness of the system.

  • That would appear to be a specific to a knowledge domain, in this case engineering. I was hoping for diagnostics in the abstract sense. Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 2:09

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