From reality to model: Operationalism and the value chain of particle-size analysis of natural sediments

Daniel Hartmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This paper deals with key issues concerning operationalism and the value chain in particle-size analysis (PSA), and addresses conceptual problems of PSA measurement. In order to obtain the highest quality of information contained in a set of sediment samples, one has to follow an approach called operationalism, i.e. a set of recipe-like sequential operations by which a scientific proposition can be verified or rejected. Review of the literature indicates that particle sizing as a methodology suffers from excessive verbosity and professional jargon, and has never really matured. Is the PSA crisis a result of a fundamental failure of concepts and paradigms, or is it just a technical problem related to work methods? Although PSA is fundamental to the understanding of sedimentary processes, as well as being a basic tool in earth sciences and engineering, there is still no generally accepted and standardized mode of operationalism after more than a century of intensive scientific work. The sedimentological community is called upon to come up with a unified and standardized approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-401
Number of pages19
JournalSedimentary Geology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2007


  • Grain size
  • Measurements
  • Paradigms
  • Scales
  • Sediments
  • Standards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy

Cite this