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Has Simeon's Vision Prevailed among Canadian Policy Scholars?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2017

Éric Montpetit
Université de Montréal
Christine Rothmayr Allison
Université de Montréal
Isabelle Engeli
University of Bath


Concerned by the proliferation of idiosyncratic prescriptive case studies in the nascent subfield of policy studies, Richard Simeon, in his seminal 1976 article, asked scholars to produce more comparative policy research that aimed at explaining general events and contributing to theory building. The extent to which Simeon's vision materialized remains debated. With a view to informing this debate, we conducted a systematic content analysis of the articles published in five major generalist public policy journals from 1980 to 2015. The analysis reveals that Canadian policy scholars took a comparative turn, publishing more territorial, sector and time comparisons than in the past. We also found evidence that theoretical knowledge accumulation is more important today for Canadian authors than it was when Simeon wrote his article.


Préoccupé par la prolifération d’études de cas prescriptives et idiosyncratiques, Richard Simeon, dans son article classique de 1976 appelait les chercheurs en politiques publiques à développer la recherche comparative dans le but d'expliquer des phénomènes généraux et de produire des théories. Jusqu’à quel point la vision de Simeon s'est elle matérialisée demeure sujet à débat. Dans le but de contribuer à ce débat, nous avons réalisé une analyse systématique du contenu des articles publiés entre 1980 et 2015 dans cinq revues majeures à caractère généraliste dans le domaine des politiques publiques. L'analyse révèle que les spécialistes canadiens des politiques publiques ont pris un tournant comparatif, publiant plus de comparaisons de territoires, de secteurs et de périodes que dans le passé. Des indicateurs nous permettent aussi de conclure que l'accumulation de connaissances théoriques est plus importante aujourd'hui pour les chercheurs canadiens qu'elle ne l’était à l’époque où Simeon a rédigé son article

Simeon's “Studying Public Policy” 40 years on – A Symposium
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2017 

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