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Q: Fields of Study in Science ( Answered 1 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Fields of Study in Science
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: beckyp-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 12 Nov 2002 05:34 PST
Expires: 12 Dec 2002 05:34 PST
Question ID: 105984
Earlier this evening I had a conversation with a child about 10 years
old.  When I asked her how school was going, she said "great" and that
science was her favorite class.  When I asked her why she liked
science, she said that she liked it because she was learning about
“EVERYTHING”.  What is “everything”?  She said it was about animals,
plants and people.  How we all live and grow, and how things work.

I came home and typed in “What is science?” into my favorite search
engine.  I tried other terms and methods and came up with an awesome
number of options.  As I perused the sites, I realized that I do not
really know all of the possible fields of study.

Very sadly, I will admit that my course of studies has included,
primarily, non-scientific studies.   (Please forgive me, I've even
taken courses in Operations Research and Physics taught by the best!)

My questions:  

1)	What is the definition of science?  (Please give 3 definitions and
their sources.)

2)	What is the difference between a ‘hard’ and a ‘soft’ science?  What
are the “basic” sciences.  (These are the terms that were used when I
was in school.  Are these terms still used?)  (Please give 2
definitions and their sources.)

3)	Most important, where can I get a LIST of ALL (or most) fields of
study in science.

This list should include primary (basic?) fields of study.  (For
example, biology, physics, chemistry, geology, psychology,

This list should ALSO include at least 5 ‘sub’ levels of study.  For
example, micro-biology, marine biology, molecular biology …

It is also VERY important that your sources can easily be copied and
pasted into a spreadsheet so that I can play around with the data, add
definitions, major events in the field, etc.

Thank you for your help.
Subject: Re: Fields of Study in Science
Answered By: krobert-ga on 12 Nov 2002 08:10 PST
Rated:1 out of 5 stars

To begin, let's answer the question of "What is the definition of

1) Merriam-Webster (Ref. 1) gives a good definition of science as "a
department of systematized knowledge as an object of study." That
compact little statement tells us that science is basically the
pursuit of knowledge. It doesn't just apply to "natural" sciences like
physics or chemistry, it can also apply to theology or even sports:
the "science" of football.

2) The Academic Press (Ref. 2) gives a definition geared more toward
the natural sciences: "the systematic observation of natural events
and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate
laws and principles based on these facts".

3) This site (Ref. 3) at Washington State University gives a lengthy
discussion of a definition of science starting from it's Latin root
"scire" (to know).

In summary, we see that science not only applies to the study
"natural" phenomena but to any topic that can be studied and

Let's move on to the difference between a "hard" and a "soft" science.
 A "hard science" is a science (based on the definition we established
above) that is rigorous in it's approach to gathering and furthering
knowledge. Astronomy is a good example of this.  Before giving a
reference to this let's get a definition of a "soft science".

Soft sciences are a bit more relaxed in their approach to study and
application. Psychology is a good example of this. It has it's rigour
in it's methods, but application is very "patient specific" and trial
and error. In contrast, going back to astronomy, the prediction of the
location of a comet can be made very accurate by the knowledge of a
few key parameters (See references 4, 5).  So, "hard science" comes
from "hard facts" (numbers and the like) whereas "soft science" is
based on "fuzzier" knowledge.

Basic sciences, as they are usually defined, are just that... "basic".
 They form the foundation upon which other, more complex sciences, are
built. The basic sciences would be (Ref. 6, ignore the fact that the
paper is about bioengineering, it has a good discussion of basic

- Chemistry
- Physics
- Biology (or Life Science)
- Mathematics

Most other sciences and engineering disciplines are based on these
"basics"! Even these are interrelated. Chemistry, Biology and Physics
all rely on math. Chemistry relies on Physics, Biology on Chemistry,
and Math on Chemistry, Physics and Biology. It's interesting how all
these disciplines rely on math, and how math relies on all these

As for a list of all fields of study... well, this is an attempt (a
poor one actually). This turned out to be much harder than I thought.
My suggestion o you would be to do some research in a library...
browsing shelves, or using the card catalog. The stacks in good
university library can show you much more than I am showing you here:

Physics:Particle Physics
Physics:Applied Physics
Physics:Quantum Electronics
Physics:Theoretical Physics
Physics:Solid State Physics

Chemistry:Polymer Chemistry
Chemistry:Electronic and Optical Materials
Chemistry:Surface Chemistry
Chemistry:Organic Chemisty
Chemistry:Inorganic Chemistry

Biology:Agriculture & Sustainable Development
Biology:Behavioral Sciences
Biology:Crops & Soils Science
Biology:Entomology & Pest Management
Biology:Environment, Ecology & Biodiversity
Biology:Evolution & Paleontology
Biology:Food Science & Technology
Biology:Forestry & Renewable Resources
Biology:Marine Biology
Biology:Molecular & Cell Biology
Biology:Physiology and Biophysics
Biology:Plant Sciences
Biology:Wildlife & Fisheries
Biology:Zoology & Veterinary Medicine

Mathematics:Algorithms and Theory
Mathematics:Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining 
Mathematics:Operations Research 
Mathematics:Applied Mathematics
Mathematics:Algebra and Discrete Mathematics
Mathematics:Analysis and Geometry
Mathematics:Computational Mathematics

See references 7-9 for more information about science in general.
References 10 through 13 are some links to Journals published by
scientific societies.

I hope that this answers your question. Be sure to ask for a
clarification if you need it.

Best Regards,



1) Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th Ed.),
Merriam-Webster, Inc. (1998)

2) Science, Definition from AP Dictionary of Science and Technology.

3) What is Science: A Baseline Definition

4) Hard Science vs. Soft Science

5) Hard Science vs. Soft Science

6) Basic Sciences Curriculum: The Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and
Life Science Foundation of a Bioengineering Curriculum

7) American Association for the Advancement of Science

8) Science Resources by Discipline

9) PhysicsWeb

10) Journals of the APS

11) Journals of the ACS

12) American Mathematical Society Journals Program

13) ASM Journals Online

Request for Answer Clarification by beckyp-ga on 12 Nov 2002 08:44 PST
Dear Krobert -

My main, and most important question has not been answered:  in your
own words, "well, this is an attempt (a poor one actually)".

As I mentioned, I already attempted my own search.  Just scanning the
-undergraduate and graduate programs at 3 universities netted me at
least 4 times the options that you have provided.

I know this is a difficult subject.  That is why I turned to google. 
And, no, I don't really want to go to my local library.  Yes, of
course, I can go there.  However, I didn't really want to get dressed
this morning.

I really am sorry.  I really do want an answer.

Where do we go from here?


Clarification of Answer by krobert-ga on 12 Nov 2002 09:01 PST
No problem beckyp-ga.  I'll get on it and post it.


Clarification of Answer by krobert-ga on 12 Nov 2002 10:33 PST
Here is a more complete set, but again (and I'm not trying to belittle
my own answer), I don't believe that this is nearly complete.  Also,
there are some disciplines practiced by only a few people in the
world, you are not going to find them here. So, after that disclaimer:

Physics Disciplines:
1) Acoustics
2) Applied Physics 
3) Astronomy
4) Astrophysics
5) Atmospheric Physics
6) Chemical Physics
7) Colaration Physics 
8) Computational Physics 
9) Condensed Matter
10) Cosmology
11) Crystallography
12) Ecological Physics 
13) Electron Microscopy 
14) Electromagnetism
15) Energy
16) Engineering Physics 
17) Environmental Physics 
18) Fluid Mechanics
19) Geophysics
20) Laser Physics 
21) Marine Physics 
22) Mathematical Physics 
23) Mechanics
24) Medical Physics
25) Nuclear Physics
26) Particle Physics
27) Plasma Physics
28) Physical Electronics 
29) Physical Research Techniques
30) Optics
31) Quantum Electronics
32) Quantum Mechanics
33) Radiation Physics
34) Relativity
35) Rheology 
36) Solid State Physics
37) Technological Physics 
38) Theoretical Physics 
39) Thermodynamics
40) Vacuum Physics

Biology Disciplines:
1) Animal and Plant Biology
2) Agriculture & Sustainable Development 
3) Applied Biology
4) Applied Cell Science
5) Applied Environmental Biology
6) Aquaculture
7) Aquatic Biology
8) Behavioural Biology
9) Biochemistry
10) Biological Sciences
11) Biotechnology
12) Botany
13) Cell Biology
14) Computational Biology
15) Crops & Soils Science 
16) Developmental Biology/Reproductional Biology
17) Entomology & Pest Management
18) Environmental Biology
19) Environment, Ecology & Biodiversity
20) Evolution & Paleontology 
21) Field Biology
22) Food Science & Technology 
23) Forestry & Renewable Resources 
24) Freshwater Biology
25) Immunology
26) Marine Biology
27) Microbiology 
28) Molecular & Cell Biology 
29) Neurobiology
30) Parasitology 
31) Physiology and Biophysics 
32) Plant Sciences 
33) Virology 
34) Wildlife & Fisheries 
35) Zoology & Veterinary Medicine 
Chemistry Disciplines:
1) Analytical Chemistry 
2) Applied Chemistry 
3) Biodeterioration of Materials 
4) Biomolecular Chemistry 
5) Bio-organic Chemistry 
6) Chemical Technology 
7) Colour Chemistry 
8) Computational Chemistry 
9) Cosmetic Chemistry 
10) Crystallography 
11) Environmental Chemistry 
12) Electronic and Optical Materials
13) Industrial Chemistry 
14) Inorganic Chemistry
15) Macromolecular Chemistry 
16) Marine Chemistry 
17) Medicinal Chemistry 
18) Organic Chemical Synthesis 
19) Organic Chemistry
20) Petrochemical Studies 
21) Photochemistry
22) Polymer Chemistry 
23) Process Plant Operation 
24) Radio Chemistry 
25) Surface Chemistry
26) Surface Coating Technology 
27) Theoretical Chemistry 

Mathematics Disciplines:
1) Analysis
2) Algebra
3) Algorithms and Theory 
4) Applied Mathematics
5) Calculus
6) Chaos
7) Combinatorics
8) Computability
9) Computational Logic
10) Computational Mathematics
11) Differential Equations
12) Discrete Mathematics 
13) Engineering Mathematics
14) Factoring
15) Field Theory
16) Games
17) Geometry
18) Graph Theory
19) Group Theory
20) Industrial Mathematics
21) Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining
22) Linear Algebra
23) Logic
24) Model Theory
25) Mathematical Sciences
26) Mathematical Studies
27) Non-Euclidian Geometry
28) Number Theory
29) Numeracy
30) Numerical Analysis
31) Numerical Mathematics
32) Numerical Methods
33) Operations Research
34) Probability
35) Proof Theory
36) Pure Mathematics
37) Set Theory
38) Statistics
39) Topology
40) Trigonometry

Here's one more top-level (not basic) discipline, which should be
listed here.. these are more applied than basic or pure science.

Environmental Science and Other Physical Sciences:

1) Applied Environmental Science
2) Atmospheric Chemistry
3) Conservation Policy 
4) Earth Resources 
5) Earth Science 
6) Ecology
7) Environmental Science 
8) Environmental Studies
9) Geochemistry
10) Geology
11) Geomatics
12) Geophysics
13) Human Ecology 
14) Meteorology 
15) Oceanography
16) Paleontology
17) Pollution Control 
18) Quarternary Studies 
19) Radiation Science
20) Water Resources

DMOZ is a good resource for exploring this further. I would recommend
the following Categories:





Some of the more "soft sciences" are also listed in:

Social Sciences
beckyp-ga rated this answer:1 out of 5 stars
krobert gave me the basics with a bit of resistance to find a more
complete answer.  I thought that this was a basic (relatively easy)
question for a general scientist.  Every day that I find the time to
search, I find many more fields of study (soft and hard) than he
bothered to list in his second answer.  AND, I never learned if 'hard'
or 'soft' were terms used to reference the study of the 'sciences'
today.  Plus, I did not receive a list of any courses / fields of
study in the "soft" sciences. So, ultimately I don't believe that my
question was answered.  I would, however, be greatful for any thoughts
on how I could have phrased or worded my answer to get a better

Subject: Re: Fields of Study in Science
From: cu42-ga on 07 Aug 2003 13:37 PDT
Pay more for such a complete answer. That's the soft science of
psychology speaking...

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