Am I a Methodologist? (Asking for a Friend)
by Thomas J. Leeper, London School of Economics and Political Science
Political methodologists are a group of political scientists who provide the field as a whole with “meta research” on how to engage in the systematic study of politics, providing a critical reflection on research practices and offering new methods and new tools for use by fellow researchers. Despite the importance of the role, there are widely held stereotypes about “political methodologists” as a group, not all of which are positive or encourage early career researchers to consider participating in the subfield.
In this article, Thomas Leeper provides an autobiographical insight into the process of coming to identify as a methodologist, presents readers with a typology of methodologists that showcases the breadth of research and teaching roles performed by members of the subfield, and discusses the process and challenges of self-identification as a barrier to entry for new, potential methodologists.
Leeper suggests that political scientists attracted to the teaching and research functions performed by methodologists should seriously consider participating in the subfield even if they don’t yet “feel” like a methodologist. He goes on to encourage potential methodologists to not let the feeling that they are different from the current, fairly homogeneous group of current methodologists to stand in the way of their career in the subfield.