Why is Information Retrieval a Scientific Discipline?

Robert W.P. Luk

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


It is relatively easy to state that information retrieval (IR) is a scientific discipline but it is rather difficult to understand why it is science because what is science is still under debate in the philosophy of science. To be able to convince others that IR is science, our ability to explain why is crucial. To explain why IR is a scientific discipline, we use a theory and a model of scientific study, which were proposed recently. The explanation involves mapping the knowledge structure of IR to that of well-known scientific disciplines like physics. In addition, the explanation involves identifying the common aim, principles and assumptions in IR and in well-known scientific disciplines like physics, so that they constrain the scientific investigation in IR in a similar way as in physics. Therefore, there are strong similarities in terms of the knowledge structure and the constraints of the scientific investigations between IR and scientific disciplines like physics. Based on such similarities, IR is considered a scientific discipline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-453
Number of pages27
JournalFoundations of Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Correspondence
  • Information retrieval
  • Physics
  • Science
  • Similarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • General
  • Computer Science(all)

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