Feature

The incoming editor of the journal Psychological Methods, Scott Maxwell, PhD, wants to strike a balance: He wants to publish articles detailing groundbreaking research in methodology while pulling in psychologists interested in using those methods to pursue their own work.

As Maxwell sees it, methodology is the unifying thread linking all the different strands of psychology together. Methodology affects not only how psychologists interpret their data, but also how they formulate their research questions in the first place.

"One could argue that it's really the commonality of the methods we use as psychologists that defines what makes something psychology," he says.

Maxwell wants to continue publishing papers combining scientifically rigorous research with readability-thereby making the work accessible to a larger swath of psychologists who don't study methodology in their professional lives.

Readability is something Maxwell, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, pursued as an associate editor at the journal for the past six years, and something he'll continue to stress as editor.

"I've worked directly with authors themselves as an action editor, and taken a page, a paragraph or a sentence, and really tried to help the author explain what he or she is trying to say in a way that doesn't require so much technical knowledge," he says.

Before Psychological Methods was founded in 1994, Maxwell served as the associate editor for the quantitative section of Psychological Bulletin from 1991 to 1993. Maxwell became interested in psychology almost by accident, after taking an introductory psychology course at Duke University as an undergraduate.

He originally wanted to major in mathematics, but as he learned more about psychology and studied under Cliff W. Wing, PhD, he quickly got interested in applying mathematics to psychology.

He went on to earn a doctorate in quantitative psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before beginning his academic career.

Maxwell's own work has concentrated on power analysis, sample size determination, longitudinal data analysis and mediation analysis.

As editor, Maxwell is also interested in:

  • Web-based supplements. Building on a feature already in place for some journal articles, Maxwell wants to expand the amount of supplemental material linked from a specific article to an existing Psychological Methods Web site. Through such a link, an author writing specific computer code that's part of a research method could make the code accessible to other researchers who want to try it in their own work, he says.

  • Appendices. Publishing appendices to articles can allow authors to concentrate on concepts in their papers and refer readers to detailed technical information in another section.

  • Special sections. Pursuing a feature started by previous editor Stephen G. West, PhD, Maxwell wants to continue publishing special sections. Possible topics for future issues include causality and data integration.

All these efforts are tied to the journal's mission of improving research methodology throughout psychology, Maxwell notes. Though psychologists learn methodology while pursuing a doctorate, Maxwell says, the discipline lacks a continuing-education support structure for psychologists to learn new methodological approaches throughout their careers. Besides publishing manuscripts detailing breakthroughs in methodology, the journal can help provide that support, he says.

"Ideally, Psychological Methods works at the interface of methodology and content, and really, provides an opportunity for nonspecialists to learn about methods that will improve the quality of their research," he says.