Ill-Defined and well-defined Problems


At the one extreme are “well-defined” problems, at the other are “ill-defined"problems. Well-defined problems (like the chemical composition of the lunar samples) are amenableto solution in that they can be clearly posed and hence solved by relatively clear-cut, standard, analytic tech- niques; they are “consensible”(Ziman, 1968) ifnthat a relatively wide degree of consensus can be obtained regardingthe “natureof the problem;” in short, they are easily formulated. Ill-defined problems (like the origin of the moon) are almost defiantly elusive; they seem to defy a common “consensible” formulation (Mitroff and Betz, 1972). Beause of their widespreadconsensiblenature, well-defined problems seem independent of the personality of their formulators; they appearto be impersonal. Ill-defined problems, on the other hand, appearto be the intensely personal creations of their creators. Whereas the conventional norms of science are dominant for well-structured problems, the counter-norms proposed here appear to be dominant for ill-structured problems.

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