Human resource development as an interdisciplinary body of knowledge

Ronald L. Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human resource development (HRD) is a profession and an area of academic study in search of its own distinctiveness. Why does HRD lack distinctiveness? According to Jacobs, there are three explanations: it is still a relatively new area of professional practice and academic study; others may be uncertain about the tangible benefits of HRD; and, most important, it is interdisciplinary in nature; that is, it has been influenced by at least five major bodies of knowledge (education, systems theory, economics, psychology, and organizational behavior). Even though the interdisciplinary nature of HRD makes it difficult to find its distinctiveness, Jacobs offers suggestions to that end. First, he suggests that HRD research efforts be guided by an underlying theory that has as its focus the social and financial benefits of HRD. Second, he believes that the contributing areas should be reviewed and analyzed to reveal gaps in knowledge and to direct HRD research efforts in a more systematic manner. Finally, he encourages graduate students to conduct research that relates to the current knowledge in HRD in order to generate new, related propositions and to define existing ones. Distinctiveness for HRD may be difficult, but with the dedication and perseverance of the professionals involved, it is possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Resource Development Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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