Hard and soft science
Hard science and soft science are colloquial terms often used when comparing scientific fields of academic research or scholarship
A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further education. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria usually reflecting the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.-Types:...

, with hard meaning perceived as being more scientific, rigorous, or accurate. Fields of the natural, physical, and computing sciences are often described as hard, while the social sciences
Social sciences
Social science is the field of study concerned with society. "Social science" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences usually exclusive of the administrative or managerial sciences...

 and similar fields are often described as soft. The hard sciences are characterized as relying on quantifiable
Quantification has several distinct senses. In mathematics and empirical science, it is the act of counting and measuring that maps human sense observations and experiences into members of some set of numbers. Quantification in this sense is fundamental to the scientific method.In logic,...

The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

 data, relying on the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

, and focusing on accuracy and objectivity
Objectivity (science)
Objectivity in science is a value that informs how science is practiced and how scientific truths are created. It is the idea that scientists, in attempting to uncover truths about the natural world, must aspire to eliminate personal biases, a priori commitments, emotional involvement, etc...

. Publications in the hard sciences such as natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

s make heavier use of graphs than soft sciences such as sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, according to the graphism thesis
Graphism thesis
In sociology of science, the graphism thesis is a proposition of Bruno Latour that graphs are important in science.Research has shown that one can distinguish between hard science and soft science disciplines based on the level of graph use, so it can be argued that there is a correlation between...


Within the areas of natural science and social science, some disciplines are viewed as "harder" than others. For example, physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 is viewed as harder than, say, paleontology
Paleontology "old, ancient", ὄν, ὀντ- "being, creature", and λόγος "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments...

 since the former but not the latter can make precise predictions about experimental data.

A related aspect of the hard versus soft distinction has to do with the ease of drawing strong conclusions. In soft sciences, there are often numerous variables that might have an influence on some variable of interest, and many of those variables either may be non-quantifiable or may be quantifiable but difficult to obtain data on; but further, even with plentiful data, it may be difficult to disentangle the effects of such a large number of variables. In contrast, typically in the hard sciences there are only a few, readily identified, causative variables, making it easier to infer specific causative effects.

See also

  • Demarcation problem
    Demarcation problem
    The demarcation problem in the philosophy of science is about how and where to draw the lines around science. The boundaries are commonly drawn between science and non-science, between science and pseudoscience, between science and philosophy and between science and religion...

  • History of science
    History of science
    The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

  • Philosophy of science
    Philosophy of science
    The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. It is also concerned with the use and merit of science and sometimes overlaps metaphysics and epistemology by exploring whether scientific results are actually a study of truth...

  • Objectivity (science)
    Objectivity (science)
    Objectivity in science is a value that informs how science is practiced and how scientific truths are created. It is the idea that scientists, in attempting to uncover truths about the natural world, must aspire to eliminate personal biases, a priori commitments, emotional involvement, etc...

  • Subjectivity
    Subjectivity refers to the subject and his or her perspective, feelings, beliefs, and desires. In philosophy, the term is usually contrasted with objectivity.-Qualia:...

  • Exact science
    Exact science
    An exact science is any field of science capable of accurate quantitative expression or precise predictions and rigorous methods of testing hypotheses, especially reproducible experiments involving quantifiable predictions and measurements...

  • Paradigm shift
    Paradigm shift
    A Paradigm shift is, according to Thomas Kuhn in his influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , a change in the basic assumptions, or paradigms, within the ruling theory of science...

  • Science wars
    Science wars
    The science wars were a series of intellectual exchanges, between scientific realists and postmodernist critics, about the nature of scientific theory which took place principally in the US in the 1990s...

  • Scientific reductionism
  • The central science
    The central science
    Chemistry is often called the central science because of its role in connecting the physical sciences, which include chemistry, with the life sciences and applied sciences such as medicine and engineering. The nature of this relationship is one of the main topics in the philosophy of chemistry and...

  • Human science
    Human Science
    Human science refers to the investigation of human life and activities via a phenomenological methodology that acknowledges the validity of both sensory and psychological experience...

  • Soft computing
    Soft computing
    Soft computing is a term applied to a field within computer science which is characterized by the use of inexact solutions to computationally-hard tasks such as the solution of NP-complete problems, for which an exact solution cannot be derived in polynomial time.-Introduction:Soft Computing became...

  • Memetics
    Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. It purports to be an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer. A meme, analogous to a gene, is essentially a "unit of...

  • Hard systems
    Hard systems
    In systems science Hard systems is a title sometimes used to differentiate between different types of systems problems. It is opposing soft systems.- Overview :...

    , soft systems
    Soft systems
    Soft systems methodology is a systemic approach for tackling real-world problematic situations. Soft Systems Methodology is the result of the continuing action research that Peter Checkland, Brian Wilson, and many others have conducted over 30 years, to provide a framework for users to deal with...

  • STEM fields
    STEM fields
    STEM fields is a US Government acronym for the fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The acronym is in use regarding access to work visas for immigrants who are skilled in these fields. Maintaining a citizenry that is well versed in the STEM fields...

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