the cedar ledge

What is Normal Science?

Date: May 22 2022

Summary: An overview of what normal science is according to Thomas Kuhn.

Keywords: #normal #science #characteristics #work


T. S. Kuhn and I. Hacking, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Fourth edition. Chicago ; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2012.


What Is Normal Science?

According to Kuhn, normal science, is research based on past scientific accomplishments that are considered the foundation for that area of investigation. Generally, this is the area where most scientists spend their time. The research done in normal science can be theoretical or empirical.

In the book, Kuhn referred to this as “mop-up work” and that this mopping up or “filling out” of science is what most scientists do. Although language such as “mop-up” work can make one think that Kuhn was being pejorative to these so-called “scut scientists,” he did not intend it so. In later versions of this book, he made a response to this point of confusion and clarified that this work still is fascinating and crucial in many ways to the advancement of science.

What Are the Characteristics of Normal Science?

An important aspect of normal science is that it does not engage with or seek out anything new. The invention of theories, development of new phenomena - anything abnormal - is not part of normal science. Novelty is abhorrent and antithetical to normal science.

Aside from this fundamental aspect of normal science, Kuhn posited that there are three general areas of research in normal science. He emphasized that they do not always hold or are always discrete from one another:

  1. Investigating questions around the fundamental facts found in a specific domain.

  2. Questions that are predicted and expected to have answers existing within an already existing research domain.

  3. Further articulating the fundamental facts held in a given domain.



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