Ideas for Developing a Research Project with a Focus on Women's Lives
First, in developing a research project with a focus on women's lives
and experiences, it is valuable to create a project which makes a
contribution to understanding women's experiences, the circumstances
affecting women, and women's actions.
Consider if an anticipated project:
Contributes to a basic understanding of
women's experiences, and women's position in social institutions;
Identifies practical or policy
applications of the knowledge produced by the research;
Addresses the diversity of women's
experiences coming out of differences based on class, age, race,
ethnic background, or sexual orientation as well as common patterns;
Applies knowledge to the solution of
important social issues.
Do you want to obtain outside funding to support the activities of
If yes, then you may want to develop answers to the following
What is the general subject of the
What are specific subtopics?
What questions will be addressed by the
What are the methods which will be used
to address them?
Does the research illuminate the
diversity of human or women's experiences? If so, how?
What is the scholarly significance of
Are there any possible practical or
policy implications of the results?
What is the anticipated time-line of the
For projects involving the use of data, there are additional questions
to be answered in planning the research.
What will be the source of data?
Will the knowledge produced be
descriptive (describing some phenomenon) or explanatory (explaining
why something occurs) or both?
What methods of analysis will be used?
Will the research use human subjects?
(Has permission already been obtained from the Human Subjects Review
Important Topics and Concepts
Important Organizing Concepts Useful
in Selecting Topics for Research on Women
Human beings and their creations -- social systems, culture, technology,
and material objects -- are complex and multidimensional. In modern
societies, social patterns are cross-cut and elaborated by multiple
groups and identities, particularly including those associated with
racial and ethnic diversity, and social class differences. This complex
reality has been usefully organized using a number of categories of
investigation. Below we list some of the most useful, although broad,
concepts pertinent to the study of women and gender. Any of these would
be appropriate topics for research on women
The Social Construction of Gender
Humans must learn to be human.
Individuals learn the ways and habits of their people through
intensive interaction between the developing child and other people.
The social scripts and their meanings are passed along from one
generation to the next. Socialization takes place in the family,
school, neighborhood, workplace, and entertainment.
Culture consists of all the shared
products of human society, including material objects, and
nonmaterial objects such as ideas, language, customs, beliefs, and
behavioral patterns. Major forms of cultural creativity and
socialization include: Literature, Art, Music, The Mass Media and
The psychology of gender
Gender socialization affects and shapes
personality, and gender stratification. Gendered expectations have
psychological consequences. At the same time, a person's own
motivation, will, and resistance can alter the nature of gender
Social Institutions Which Help Define and Shape Gender
Gender relationships are defined and
shaped within the family through family roles, child care practices,
patterns of physical and emotional maintenance, power relationships,
and economic patterns.
The reproduction of gender roles occurs
in the school, classroom, playground, and friendship groups.
Education also occurs outside of the classroom, through television
watching or participation in sports, for example.
The economic system structures work and
employment, the distribution of wealth and income, and work
The political institution is the locus
of law and policy, government and the state, political
participation, and political actors, all of which affect gender
patterns and relationships.
Health care and medicine
Gender patterns are reproduced within
Particularly in its research on gender,
but also in the personnel of the institution of science, gender
relationships are supported and reinforced, but occasionally
Religious views of men and women usually
support the social roles a particular society encourages for men and
women, as do religious hierarchies.
The Social Construction of Gender across
Time and Place
The history of the social
construction of gender
The study of history (including
historical literature and cross-cultural comparisons of literary
products) provides analyses of cultural representations across time
and place, allowing us to see what patterns are common, and how
gender relationships change.
Political and Social Change
Maintenance of and change in systems
of gender inequality
Here we are interested in why systems of
gender inequality are so stable, and why such patterns sometimes go
through enormous shifts.
Women's social movements, political
action, and resistance
What is the history of women's social
movements and political action? What actions result in change, and
what kinds of groups are successful in affecting the social,
economic, and political orders in their interests?
Coalition-building and community
How groups work together to achieve
common interests. How fracturing among groups impedes common
Gender and Individual Expression
Communication and self-expression
What are gender similarities and
differences in communication and self-expression, and what are the
consequences of such similarities and differences? How do women
interpret their lives and experiences, and how do others interpret
Intimacy and sexuality
How does gender affect intimate
relationships and the expression of sexuality?
The body and its control
Three particularly interesting areas of
research within this category are research on violence against
women, control over reproductive processes, and image and
Explanations and Theories of Gender
Theories of gender
This concept includes a consideration of
theories of commonality and difference among women.
Theories of group formation and
More general than the prior concept,
theories of group formation and stratification consider how social
inequality is created, maintained, and changed, and the consequences
of that inequality.