In the philosophy of science, there are three terms which are used to describe three different related notions. In both Polish (pl) and German (de), these three terms are unique such that there is no risk of equivocation. Briefly:

  • metoda (pl); Methode (de)
    an ordered sequence of actions chosen to economically and efficiently achieve a desired end
  • metodyka (pl); Methodik (de)
    a set of methods chosen for the purpose of achieving a common end or related ends (e.g. the cluster of methods used in molecular biology)
  • metodologia (pl); Methodologie (de)
    the science whose proper objects of study are the previous two

In English, metoda is method, while both metodyka and metodologia are methodology. In English, we have the word methodic, but this is an adjective, and if I were to invent a word such as methodics or the noun form methodic, it would appear, given the Greek etymology of similar terms (concerning the -ikos ending, e.g. mathematikos, logikos, physikos) and the meanings of words with similar endings in English, that the word would suggest a field of study. Oddly enough, methodology, etymologically speaking, does concern a field of study and is thus the wrong word to describe the second term above.

Is anyone aware of an alternative that would work? If no such alternative exists, any ideas about what new word could be coined to better suit the intended meaning?

EDIT: If anyone is able to read Polish, here is a PDF with definitions supplied by Herbut.

  • 2
    Don’t coin a new word. Use set of methods if you must.
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2012 at 16:09
  • Possible alternatives: Technique, algorithm, etc. Nov 15, 2012 at 18:58
  • 1
    @coleopterist - Technique and algorithm are subclasses of method, so those won't do. Remember, I'm not talking about a single method, but a body of methods.
    – danielm
    Nov 15, 2012 at 21:46
  • From here: "In theoretical work, the development of paradigms satisfies most or all of the criteria for methodology. A paradigm, like an algorithm, is a constructive framework, meaning that the so-called construction is a logical, rather than a physical, array of connected elements." Nov 16, 2012 at 2:20

3 Answers 3


Can't you just say "method system" or "method framework"? I still think methodology would work, even if it is also a field of study.

  • I agree with brobdingnagian. Methodology is serviceable and understood, despite the etymology. Nov 15, 2012 at 18:48
  • 2
    @KristinaLopez - "Methodology" is the currently used term for both. But my question isn't about the current usage, but a desire for a better term.
    – danielm
    Nov 15, 2012 at 21:48

When I was in the LitCrit racket, methodology meant essentially your metodyka, representing both the embrace of a particular set of methods and the application of those methods to a particular problem.

Critical study and examination of differing or opposed methodologies had no distinct name; when it was necessary to refer to such study it would be called something on the order of methodological inquiry or methodological controversy.

Of course LitCrit has never embraced a single body of methods; the situation may be quite otherwise among scientists or philosophers of science. But I suggest that if your discourse requires a third term, the one that English lacks is the equivalent of your metodologia.

For that, methodics would serve admirably, and I cannot imagine a context in which it would be confused with methodic (which is in case pretty rare--methodical is far more usual).

Or you could go back to the source of the problem. The title of Descartes' pioneering inquiry is usually expressed in English as A Discourse on Method--no article, no suffixes, just Method.

  • 2
    I'll go with this. Within which I think the key point is that English doesn't have a single standard term for "the science of methodology". But I don't see that as a problem, since I'm far from convinced we ever actually need such a term "for real" - but your suggested methodics might be useful to alert us that wherever we see it, we're probably looking at something closely related to fruitloopery Nov 15, 2012 at 18:29
  • I think it's a serious field of study. One of my all-time favorite works, Polanyi's Personal Knowledge, is largely about this "methodics". Nov 15, 2012 at 19:32
  • I don't know that, but I think he's the "tacit knowledge" guy. I'm probably sounding off above my pay grade, but personal/tacit knowledge sounds like stuff to do with how individuals think, acquire & organise their knowledge, etc. Whereas I'd like to hope there's a single approach called "the scientific method" that everyone could/should in principle sign up to. Nov 15, 2012 at 20:23
  • @FumbleFingers Yes, he's the "tacit knowledge" guy. What he argues is that scientific knowledge is at bottom created and sustained by passionate personal commitment, not mere mechanical application of an abstract "methodology". Nov 15, 2012 at 20:44
  • @Stoney - Interesting proposal, although it may be difficult to incite a shift from "methodology" to "methodics", and I find the use of "methodology" to describe anything but the study of methods etymologically bad, albeit common practice.
    – danielm
    Nov 15, 2012 at 22:02

Methodology is defined in both the AHDEL and Collins as the English counterpart of both metodyka and metodologia. In fact, the metodyka sense is given first in each dictionary, showing that this is the meaning that one might consider more basic - in spite of the -ology ending. This is how I would expect the senses to be prioritised, and matches the situation with ideology. If the metodologia sense is required and context will not make this usage clear, 'methodology proper' could (rather perversely!) be used.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.