This article deals with different methodological enquiries in researching citizenship and marginality in a developing context. It is based on reflections emerging from a five-year collaborative international research programme that focused on enhancing the efforts of the poor and marginalized groups to define and claim their rights and make citizenship matter. The article deals with the politics and dilemmas inherent in the different methodological stances and positions of action research and other sister approaches towards the question of citizenship. Reflections from the researchers are interspersed with theoretical issues to highlight the messiness of the research process. The article argues for the need to challenge dominant framings in development, to be more modest about and redefine what we mean by policy influence and research impacts, to be more process-oriented and reflexive and to engage more strongly in a pedagogy of the powerful.