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I posted this question on english.se, and there have been a few interesting points, but I'm not sure the audience has the domain knowledge needed to fully appreciate what I'm asking. I restate below:

In the philosophy of science, there are three terms which are used to describe three different related notions. In both Polish (pl) and German (de), these three terms are unique such that there is no risk of equivocation. Briefly:

  • metoda (pl); Methode (de)
    an ordered sequence of actions chosen to economically and efficiently achieve a desired end
  • metodyka (pl); Methodik (de)
    a set of methods chosen for the purpose of achieving a common end or related ends (e.g. the cluster of methods used in molecular biology)
  • metodologia (pl); Methodologie (de)
    the science whose proper objects of study are the previous two

In English, metoda is method, while both metodyka and metodologia are methodology. In English, we have the word methodic, but this is an adjective, and if I were to invent a word such as methodics or the noun form methodic, it would appear, given the Greek etymology of similar terms (concerning the -ikos ending, e.g. mathematikos, logikos, physikos) and the meanings of words with similar endings in English, that the word would suggest a field of study. Oddly enough, methodology, etymologically speaking, does concern a field of study and is thus the wrong word to describe the second term above.

Is anyone aware of an alternative that would work? If no such alternative exists, any ideas about what new word could be coined to better suit the intended meaning?

Original post: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/91339/better-english-equivalent-for-set-of-methods

EDIT: For those able to read Polish, a summary of methodology written by Herbut.

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1 Answer 1

The following answers are informed by my background in the mathematical sciences. Hidden in the distinctions above are questions of certainty, epistemology, and expertise.

an ordered sequence of actions chosen to economically and efficiently achieve a desired end

— In my background, this would come with the connotation that there are some theoretical guarantees as to its success: that is, that success is in principle guaranteed, or that the probability of success (if the procedure is not itself entirely deterministic) is substantial. Thus the words

  • algorithm, procedure, formalism, recipe, method

all fit quite well here in English. When the procedure does not guarantee success but seems to work anyway, for reasons which are poorly understood, the word "heuristic" fits better.

a set of methods chosen for the purpose of achieving a common end or related ends (e.g. the cluster of methods used in molecular biology)

— An emphasis on a set of methods has the interesting side-effect that one must determine when any one particular method will be effective. Thus while the methods may be recognized as useful, there is no longer necessarily an algorithm for applying them to a novel circumstance, and we enter the domain of strategy, craft, and art. Thus I would apply the words

  • technique or techniques, tools or toolbox [figurative].

One sometimes hears "bag of tricks" as well, for a less thoroughly developed 'toolbox' in a discipline which people are trying to come to grips with. "Programme" (as opposed to program, which is effectively a synonym for algorithm) is related in that it is usually a directed effort to produce a comprehensive toolbox or set of effective techniques, informed by some basic principles.

the science whose proper objects of study are the previous two

Wikipedia informs me that this is the proper subject matter of methodology. When restricted to a particular domain of knowledge, it may be a theory (as in "group theory", "set theory", "information theory").

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My definitions are by no means as rigorous above as they could be. The definition of method given by Herbut (and likely Kamiński) is more fully elaborated (Polish: goo.gl/B9muq), something like "an ordered sequence of actions with a failure rate no greater than the success rate, able to be repeated in principle, and producing the same result". So as you can see, algorithm and heuristic are both classified as kinds of methods. It appears we agree with the definition of "methodology" (although some on english.se don't), and it is THE accepted translation of "metodyka". –  danielm Nov 16 '12 at 17:39
As far as "metodyka" is concerned, the terms you give don't really capture the meaning of the term, and they're frankly too colloquial. Btw, the "side-effect" you mention, while "interesting", is not what I'm asking; how we go about selecting a method is a problem facing us whenever we are choosing methods regardless of whether we have an accepted corpus of methods to choose from or not. Likewise, the question of "novel circumstances" is a topic of methodology (e.g. creativity), but I'm interested in a better term for "metodyka" than the current "methodology" to avoid equivocation. –  danielm Nov 16 '12 at 17:58
And one more note: methodology can be both a descriptive and prescriptive discipline. However, it is a danger to think that science operates "algorithmically" as if following a recipe, or that I am approaching it in that way. Instead, we are seeking to describe, in retrospect, what general methods do in fact occur. The question of novelty doesn't play a role here when we seek to study the actual corpus of methods (as they are) that play a role in defining a field. Epistemology certainly plays a big role (our method tells us how to interpret the result). The subject of expertise, not so much. –  danielm Nov 16 '12 at 18:08
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