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Doing Feminist Research in Political and Social Science

by Brooke Ackerly & Jacqui True

Exercises - Doing Feminist Research

Exercise 8.1: Examining another methodologist’s tools

Consider an article that uses a methodology you are considering deploying. For example, consider Catherine Eschle and Bice Maiguashca’s 'Rethinking Globalised Resistance: Feminist Activism and Critical Theorising in International Relations' discussed in Chapter seven.
  • What is the authors’ research question?
  • How did they identify their “population”?
  • How did they identify their “cases”?
  • How did they select their sources?
  • Are these methods appropriate to their question?

Exercise 10.1: Techniques that work for your project

Reflect on what techniques for analysis you have used in your past papers and projects. What techniques would be most appropriate for analyzing the data in your current project? Rank the top five most relevant techniques in your view and consider why each is important in improving the credibility and plausibility of your analysis.

Exercise 11.1 What is the role of research subject-participants in your research?

In positivist research design, the research subject is a data source ontologically separate from the researcher. In feminist research, the research subject is in a power relationship with the researcher.
  • Will research subjects have an influence on the data we gather or where and how the results are made available to others?
  • How will research subjects be involved in the research? Through our methods such as action research or consciousness-raising?
  • Will research subjects produce knowledge?
  • Will research subjects gain knowledge from the research? If so, what kind?
  • Who will decide that role?
Linda Tuhiwai Smith is clear that if the researched community is indigenous, the indigenous community should decide (Smith [1998] 1999). Others struggle to meet the expectations that the community may have of the researcher (Maguire 1987).

Exercise 12.1: Steps to rethinking the exercise of power in the basic tools of research

  1. Begin by listing the tools have you used in the past to keep track of your data?
  2. In your use of these tools, consider how to attend to issues of power and ethics between you as researcher and your research subject-participants while “in the field” and in your research relationships generally?
  3. Choose two or three tools from chapter 12 that are new to you. For example, as discussed in chapter twelve; using an ethics statement, making a first impression, being sensitive to context, appropriate timing of data collection, considering local logistics in advance, building social networks and supporters of your work, field testing your instrument or method of data generation, sharing your findings with key informants. How would you potentially use and develop these?

Exercise 13.1: Standards for evaluating research papers in social and political science

Your instructor and your class may have standards for good writing that are particularly relevant to your course content. Consider what the key elements of a successful paper are. They may include:

A well-defined thesis says to the reader, 'This is the thesis! This is the point! If you remember nothing else you will remember this!' Underline your thesis. The thesis should not describe or outline. It should argue. A well -defended thesis requires that the rest of your paper be devoted to making an argument. An argumentative thesis is more easy to defend, (but in my opinion, if you are having trouble formulating your thesis, some advice that says, 'make it argumentative' is not going to be very helpful.) Once you have your point, then line up all the evidence. Who would agree? Who would disagree? What are they missing? Why does your point have more explanatory power than their point? As you formulate your argument, you will probably revise your thesis. Subsections and paragraphs should each have a point and their purpose to building your argument should be made clear to the reader. You are not writing a mystery; you are writing an argument. You need to convince your readers.

Use material from the course correctly and appropriately. If someone makes your argument, you should not say that we have not read anyone who makes this argument. When you cite an author, your text needs to include your interpretation of that text.

Use material from your research correctly and appropriately. If someone makes your argument, you should not say that no one makes this argument. When you cite an author, your text needs to include your interpretation of that text.

Bibliography chase forward and back. In addition to looking at an author’s bibliography, use available search engines to find other works that cite this work.

Demonstrate that you have read and thought about the course material and your research material. Even in a paper without a thesis, without a big argument, you can show that you have seriously thought about the various aspects of the material and how they relate to one another. Does your interpretation of the author fit with other interpretations? What other opinions are out there? Why is yours the best one?

Insights make the assignment a contribution to the world -- even if it is just one new idea, it makes the world a richer place. Strive. No points off if it does not work. Extra credit for succeeding. For example, it is obvious that education and employment opportunities for daughters of educated men affect different women differently. So what...? Your answer should provide an insight.

Critical thinking can keep you engaged in the material and lead you to construct your own arguments more effectively. This comes through in criticism of certain perspectives or in honestly showing that one author's idea pokes a hole in yours.

Writing should be straight forward both conceptually and literally. Just say what you mean in a way that your classmate who is majoring in Math or French could understand.

What other things do you think make a paper worth writing and reading?