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Feminist Methods of Research

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Title: Feminist Methods of Research


1
Feminist Methods of Research
  • Presentation by Sharon Bird
  • Iowa State University

2
BACKGROUND
3
Methods are Informed by Methodology
  • Methodology two issues
  • What are the appropriate means for discovering /
    producing knowledge?
  • How valid is the knowledge produced by the use of
    different methods?

4
What do We Mean by Methods?
  • Methods the actual tools that we use to do
    research.
  • Examples
  • Face-to-face interviews
  • Surveys
  • Unobtrusive observations
  • Participant observation
  • Experiments
  • Secondary data

5
Methodology Determines Which Methods Will Be Most
Appropriate
  • Examples
  • Many researchers employ structural methodologies,
    and thus use methods that permit them to collect
    and analyze data about broad social patterns.
  • Many researchers employ social constructionist
    methodologies, and thus use methods that permit
    them to collect and analyze data about the social
    construction of reality.

6
Social Sciences Require Methods That Are
  • Valid does the method accurately capture social
    reality?
  • Reliable does the method produce replicable
    results?

7
Methodologies and Methods May Differ by Discipline
  • Humanities
  • Education
  • Social Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Arts
  • Engineering
  • Etc.

8
GOAL OF METHODOLOGIES METHODS KNOWLEDGE
  • This goal is shared across disciplines, but
    scholars
  • Use various means for achieving this goal, and
  • May define knowledge differently.

9
Formal Knowledge
  • Formal knowledge may be analytical or empirical
  • Analytical knowledge is based on accepted
    principles of logic.
  • Empirical knowledge is based on the analysis of
    observational evidence.

10
Discovery and Construction of Knowledge
  • Discovery of knowledge suggests that an
    objective reality awaits discovery.
  • Construction of knowledge suggests that our
    understanding of reality is shaped (and limited)
    by our own experiences.

11
Specific Methods of Research are Used to Develop
Specific Kinds of Knowledge
  • Example
  • Empirical methods are used to develop empirical
    knowledge.

12
Empirical Methods of Research
  • Involves
  • Collection of empirical evidence.
  • Testing of theories and/or hypotheses.
  • Clear presentation of data.
  • Clear presentation of analysis of data.
  • Potential for refuting theories / hypotheses.

13
Many Also Argue That
  • Empirical methods are
  • Value free and
  • Not concerned with how the world should be but
    with objective facts only.
  • This suggests that empirical methods are not
    political.

14
Feminist Critique of Value Free Assumption
  • Empirical methods and the knowledge produced by
    them are never completely value free.

15
For Example
  • Effects of individual subjectivities
  • Who decides which topics are worthy of
    investigation?
  • Effects of social context
  • How does social context shape how we frame
    research questions, collect data, analyze data,
    and interpret data?

16
FEMINIST METHODS IN SOCIAL RESEARCH
  • Feminist methods are informed by feminist
    methodologies.

17
Feminist Methods
  • Seek to reveal and overcome andocentric biases in
    research.
  • Seek to create social change.
  • Seek to represent human diversity.
  • Acknowledge the positionality of the researcher.

18
Revealing Androcentric Biases
  • Methods must involve
  • Women (not men alone) as participants.
  • Womens experiences within social hierarchies.
  • Example
  • In depth interviews with women that reveal
    womens understanding of power structures in
    workplace, family, etc.

19
Creating Social Change
  • Methods must involve and respect participants as
    agents of change.
  • Examples
  • Participatory action research.
  • Performance ethnography.

20
Representing Human Diversity
  • Methods must acknowledge that
  • Not all women (and not all men) experience social
    world in the same way.
  • Examples
  • Interviews (data collection) and life history
    analyses that examine unique life experiences of
    Jewish, Catholic and Muslim men (and women).
  • Statistical methods that examine how sex category
    interacts with religious practice in their
    effects on individual outcomes.

21
Acknowledging Positionality of Researcher
  • Methods must acknowledge that the researchers
    positionality shapes the research process
  • Researchers experiences shape
  • What she or he views as important topics for
    study.
  • How participants respond (e.g., in face to face
    interviews).
  • How she or he interprets data.

22
Conclusions
  • Most any method of research can be used to attain
    feminist (gender justice) goals.
  • Method depends on specific methodology and
    research questions.
  • Feminist methodologies and methods assume that
    knowledge is socially constructed.
  • Developing the most accurate and complete
    knowledge requires use of methods that reveal
    and embrace diversity of social experience.
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