Reading and Writing Constructivist Research in American Political Science
by Michael J. Struett, North Carolina State University
Peer review is the essential gatekeeping process that determines what counts as high quality political science research yet, as implemented in political science today, some peer reviewers use narrow epistemological and methodological criteria that systematically exclude many legitimate analyses of political phenomena from publication. There is a tendency to reject work that is grounded in postpositivist or nonpositivist epistemologies, including particularly, constructivist work in International Relations.
If constructivists only read constructivist work, and positivists only read other positivist work, everyone’s understanding of the political phenomenon of interest remains limited. Worse, such narrow understandings of what “counts” as political science ultimately undermine our discipline’s collective effort to improve understanding of important political phenomena and our collective ability to produce knowledge that is relevant and interesting to the public. One solution is to improve the way peer reviewers read and consider work produced by scholars with different starting points on positivist, nonpositivist and postpositivist issues. To do that effectively, reviewers, authors, and editors all must do more to improve communication on epistemological issues.