Developing Research on Women


Ideas for Developing a Research Project with a Focus on Women's Lives and Experiences

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 the research?

If yes, then you may want to develop answers to the following questions:.

  • What is the general subject of the research?

  • What are specific subtopics?

  • What questions will be addressed by the research?

  • 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 the research?

  • Are there any possible practical or policy implications of the results?

  • What is the anticipated time-line of the project?

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 Committee?)

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 Mass Communications.

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 relationships.

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.

Economic systems

  • The economic system structures work and employment, the distribution of wealth and income, and work hierarchies.

Political systems

  • 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 medical institutions.


  • Particularly in its research on gender, but also in the personnel of the institution of science, gender relationships are supported and reinforced, but occasionally changed.


  • 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 organizing

  • How groups work together to achieve common interests. How fracturing among groups impedes common political action.

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 them?

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 self-image.

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 stratification

  • 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.





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