Feminist Research & Methods - Syllabus - Spring 2015

Rutgers University

Women’s and Gender Studies 570, Political Science 536:

Feminist Research and Methods

Dr. Jyl Josephson

Spring 2015

Mondays, 5:30 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. Conklin Hall 448


Dr. Jyl Josephson                                            Office: 716 Hill Hall & 243 Conklin Hall

Phone: (973) 353-5125 (Hill)/1886 (Conklin)

Office Hours: M 4 to 5:15 & W 1-2:30 and by appt.

email: jylj@rutgers.edu            


Course Description


This is an interdisciplinary course that examines approaches to research and research methodologies used by feminist scholars to study issues related to women, gender and sexuality.  This course also serves as the research methods course for the political science department, and will acquaint the graduate student with some of the basic approaches used by political scientists in their research. The course is designed to expand the graduate student’s knowledge of feminist theories and methods in the social sciences and humanities, and to encourage discussion and critical thinking about contemporary debates among feminist and gender studies scholars. The course will also provide the graduate student with basic tools to apply social science feminist research methods in their own research and/or to understand the ways that feminist research and methods have brought new questions, ideas, and knowledge to a particular area of the student’s area of study.


Objectives of the Course:

  • To guide students who plan to complete a large scale research project in completion of their graduate studies (thesis or dissertation) through the process of developing a research project, from research question through research proposal.
  • To guide students who do NOT plan to complete a large scale research project through the process of researching and writing a paper summarizing the impact of women’s and gender studies and feminist scholarship on a specific subfield of their discipline, through examining feminist scholarship in a representative scholarly journal over time.
  • To acquaint students with the relationship between feminist theory and feminist research practice, and with current discussions of feminist epistemology and research methodology, including feminist critiques of  traditional philosophies of science and the development of feminis epistemologies.
  • To provide an overview of feminist research/interpretive methods, and of key debates among feminist scholars regarding feminist research and methodology.
  • To provide students with hands-on experiences with research, including university regulations and processes for research using human subjects, to include completion of human subjects certification, conducting a qualitative interview, and implementing some methods for analyzing qualitative interview data.


Because students in the course may come from different disciplinary traditions and approaches, students will, with the guidance of the professor, determine which methods are most appropriate for their work and how to apply feminist theories and methods to their own research, particularly in the research proposal project. The course format will be a combination of seminar discussions, lectures, and student writing and research projects.


Required Texts:


Brooke Ackerly and Jacqui True, Doing Feminist Research in Political and Social Science Palgrave Macmillan, 2010

Gabriele Griffin, Ed. Research Methods for English Studies, 2nd edition . Edinburgh University Press, 2013.

Additional readings available on Blackboard as indicated in the syllabus with this symbol: *.




Attendance and Participation (10%)


Class Blog Entries (10%) and Blog Discussion Participation (10%)

Each student will be required to prepare a summary of ONE of the assigned course readings and post the summary on the class blog/discussion board in Blackboard.  For purposes of this assignment, a course reading is one chapter or one journal length article. The summary should be 3 or 4 paragraphs in length and should summarize the key points of the readings and discuss if possible the relationship between the reading and other course readings. It should be posted to Blackboard by 5 pm on the day for which the reading is assigned.  Each summary MUST conclude with 3 to 4 QUESTIONS that could be used to guide class discussion on the reading.


We may take a look at the blog/summary during class, and then your colleagues will read and comment on your essay over the course of the week. Each class member should post at least one comment on the blogs during at least six (6) of the weeks of the semester. This could be arguing with the point, agreeing, providing links to other resources, a variety of other possibilities.  Each Friday, the instructor will comment on the blog discussion for that week. 


The blogs will be graded on the thoughtfulness and originality of the posting, its accuracy in relation to the reading discussed, as well as use of the unique possibilities of the medium—linking to relevant other resources, etc.—as well as the clarity and accessibility of the posting.  Blog participation will be graded by the quality of your contributions as well as whether you fulfill the minimum posting requirement.


Interview Assignment (35%)

            The purpose of this assignment is to give you some experience with the process of using interviews in research, with the University’s human subjects review procedures, and with the basics of analyzing qualitative interviews for research purposes.  The assignment involves a) completing the University’s human subjects certification, b) scheduling and conducting a face-to-face interview, c) preparing a transcript of the interview, d) taking field notes on the interview, e) participating in the class data analysis of the interviews f) writing a paper on the interview.  For the interview subject, you will interview a scholar or researcher about their methods in doing research using a standard protocol that the entire class will use.  You may interview a graduate student, as long as that person is a researcher.


            If your “subject” consents, you will make an audio recording of the interview and then prepare a written transcript.  You should also take notes during the interview and, immediately following the interview, write “field notes” that summarize the interview, your impressions, and thoughts you have about the interview.  You should include your field notes and transcript as an appendix when submitting your final interview paper.


Guidelines for writing the interview paper:

            The paper should be approximately six pages in length.  You should also attach an appendix that includes your transcription of the interview, your field notes, and notes/summary of your use of nVivo for purposes of analysis.  The paper should address the following subjects: 


  • Clearly state the research question of the project. 
  • Briefly describe the rationale for choosing your research subject (interviewee).
  • Discuss what you learned about the interviewee’s specific field and about doing research in that field.  Be sure to include quotes from the interview to illustrate your points.
  • Discuss what you learned about using interviewing as a research method.  This may include a critical assessment of what worked well, and what did not work as well, in your interview process, as well as in the techniques used to analyze the interview.
  • Discuss the issues raised by course readings regarding feminist inquiry and the research relationship as well as the use of interviews, the interview transcript, your field notes, and nVivo analysis, and how these issues apply to your particular interview project.


All materials for this project should be submitted electronically via the assignment function in Blackboard.


Research and Writing Assignments:  you have Two (2) Options:

OPTION 1:  Research Proposal (35%)

This project will consist of

Preliminary Research Proposal Idea

            First Draft of Research Proposal (15%)

            Research Proposal (20%)

This is the major written project for this course.  As such, it should incorporate and/or reflect the materials and topics covered in the course. It should also prove particularly useful for students who are planning to conduct research as part of the requirements for completing their graduate work. A more detailed handout will be provided.


OPTION 2:  Two assignments: 

  1. Journal literature review (20%) AND
  2.  Book review (15%)  

Note:  A separate set of instructions will be provided for both Option 1 and Option 2.



January 26:  Read Rutgers Human Subjects Policy Before Class

February 9:  Complete Human Subjects Certification Program

February 16:  Submit Preliminary Research Proposal OR Proposed Journal literature review project and Proposed Book Review

March 9: First Draft of Research Proposal OR First Draft of Journal literature review project

April 7:  Book Reviews Due

April 14:  Complete Interview; submit Field Notes and Preliminary Transcript

May 4:  Interview Papers Due

May 11:  Final Research Proposal OR Final Journal Project due


Schedule of Class Meetings:

Note:  Readings not in the two textbooks are available in Blackboard.


January 26:  Introduction and Overview

Read: Human Subjects policies of Rutgers University, available on the Rutgers website under “Office of Research and Sponsored Programs”


February 2:  Introduction to Feminist Research

            Ackerly and True, Chs. 1 & 2

            *Gabrielle Griffin, “Research Methods for English Studies: An Introduction,” from Research Methods for English Studies, 2nd ed., pp 1-17.

            *J. Ann Tickner, “Gendering a Discipline: Some Feminist Methodological Contributions to International Relations,” Signs 30:4

            *J.  Ann Tickner, “What is Your Research Program?” International Studies Quarterly, 2005


February 9: Planning your Research; the Research Relationship

            Ackerly and True Chs. 3 through 5

            Penny Summerfield, “Oral History as a Research Method,” Research Methods for English Studies

            Rachel Alsop, “The Uses of Ethnographic Methods in English Studies,” Research Methods for English Studies

            *Shahnaz Khan, “Reconfiguring the Native Informant” Signs 30:4

            *Jamie Lew, “Insider and Outsider: Reflexivity and Intersubjectivity in Ethnography,” in Blanchett and Scott, Research in Urban Educational Settings


Reminder: Complete your Human Subjects Certification by February 9


February 16: Interviewing

            Gabrielle Griffin, “Interviewing” Research Methods for English Studies

            *Laura Woliver, “Ethical Dilemmas in Personal Interviewing,“ PS: Political Science and Politics 35:4, (2002) 677-678

            *Beth Leech, “Asking Questions: Techniques for Semi-Structured Interviews,” PS: Political Science and Politics 35:4, (2002) 665-668

            *Joel Aberbach and Bert Rockman, “Conducting and Coding Elite Interviews,” PS: Political Science and Politics 35:4, (2002) 673-676


Reminder:  Research Proposal ideas due February 16


February 23: Library research methods

            We will meet in Dana Library for the first half of class and Natalie Borisovets will guide us through research in the library databases.

            Ackerly and True Ch. 6 through 8


March 2: Designing a research project; some approaches to feminist research

            Ackerly and True, Ch. 9

Digital Humanities readings:  Signs Journal 40th Anniversary web page

            Marilyn Deegan, “English Research Methods and the Digital Humanities,” Research Methods for English Studies

Mary Rizzo on Digital Humanities    


March 9: Analysis

            Ackerly and True, Ch. 10 and 11

            Participatory Action Research reading

            Grounded Theory reading

            Gabrielle Griffin, “Discourse Analysis,” Research Methods for English Studies

            Catherine Belsey, “Textual Analysis as a Research Method,” Research Methods for English Studies



March 16:  NO CLASS spring break


March 23:  Analyzing Qualitative Interviews (Part I)

            *Sophie Tessier, “From Field Notes, to Transcripts, to Tape Recordings: Evolution or Combination?” International Journal of Qualitative Methods 11:4 (2012) 446-4601 

            *Mara Sidney, “The Role of Ideas in Education Politics,” Urban Affairs Review


March 30: Analyzing Qualitative Interviews (Part II)


            *Teri Lindgren, Sally Rankin, William Rankin, and Joyce Ngo’ma, “Donkey Work: Women and HIV/AIDS in Malawi,” Health Care for Women International 26:1 (2005), 4-16




April 7: Managing the Research Process:      

            Ackerly and True, Ch. 12 through 14

Reminder: Book Reviews Due April 7


April 14:  Feminist Methods and Counting:  Using Numbers and Quantitative Data

            *Deborah Stone, ch. 7 “Numbers” in Policy Paradox

*Eduardo Moncada, “Counting Bodies: Crime Mapping, Policing and Race in Columbia,” Ethnic and Racial Studies

Debra Liebowitz and Susanne Zwingel, “Gender Equality Oversimplified: Using CEDAW to Counter the Measurement Obsession,” International Studies Review 16:362-389 (2014).

Pat Hudson, “Numbers and Words: Quantitative Methods for Scholars of Texts,” Research Methods for English Studies

Big Data readings from Jan 2015 PS

Reminder: Field Notes and Preliminary Transcript of Interview Due


April 21: Working Session:  Analyzing Interviews


April 28:  Putting it all together:  This is a working session on putting together the final journal review project paper, research proposal, and interview papers.



Research proposal presentations: prepare a brief outline or synopsis to distribute to the class.

Reminder: Interview papers due


May 11:  Final Research Proposal/Final Journal Review Project due