Josephson Syllabus Spring 2012

Women’s Studies 570 and Political Science 536:

Feminist Research and Methods

Dr. Jyl Josephson

Spring 2012

Mondays, 5:30 p.m. to 8:20 p.m.


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

Phone: (973) 353-1027 (Conklin) OR 5125 (Hill)      Office Hours: M 3 to 4, W 11 to 12



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. The course is designed to expand the graduate student’s knowledge of feminist theories and methods in both the humanities and the social sciences, 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 feminist research methods in their disciplinary research.


Objectives of the Course:

  • 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 science and the development of feminist empiricist, standpoint, materialist, and postmodernist epistemologies.
  • To provide an overview of feminist research/interpretive methods, and of key debates among feminist scholars regarding feminist research and methodology.
  • To familiarize students with a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods for giving voice to women’s experiences and making visible the frequently invisible and undercounted aspects of women’s lives.
  • To guide students through the process of developing a research project, from research question through research proposal.
  • To provide students with hands-on experiences with research, including using the internet and electronic databases in research, critically interpreting data from secondary sources, designing and conducting an interview, giving an oral presentation of proposed research, and working with a collaborative research team.
  • To provide students with the opportunity of presenting scholarly ideas to a broader audience through a class blog.


Because students in the course will 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 presentations.  Student writing will include response papers, book reviews, a proposal for a research paper relevant to the student’s discipline that engages with feminist theories and methodological issues.



Required Texts:


Mary Hawkesworth, Feminist Inquiry Rutgers 2006

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

Mary Romero, Maid in the USA 10th Anniversary edition, Routledge 2002

Fran Bartkowski, Kissing Cousins: A New Kinship Bestiary Columbia 2008

Additional readings available on Blackboard as indicated in the syllabus.




Attendance and Participation (15%)


Interview Assignment (20%)

            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 to find out more about how some of the issues raised by course readings apply to your discipline.  The assignment involves preparing an interview schedule as well as a human subject consent form, conducting a face-to-face interview, as well as writing a paper on the interview.  For the interview subject, you may choose one of the following three options:

  1. Interview a scholar or researchers about the experience of doing feminist research; or doing research on women or gender (which is not necessarily ‘feminist’); or being a woman researcher in some specific traditionally male field.  If you plan to interview a scholar on the Rutgers-Newark campus, coordinate with your classmates so that we do not overwhelm any particular scholar.
  2. Interview a feminist activist or an activist working on gender issues in the Newark or greater metropolitan area.
  3. If your research proposal will involve the use of interview techniques and it is possible/feasible to conduct an interview for this assignment (perhaps as a kind of “dry run” for your research), you may interview someone who would be included in your study.


Note: The initial part of this assignment is due February 6, due to the Rutgers University IRB procedures.  I will provide you with some examples so that you know how to begin this assignment.  You must submit these materials electronically, so that they can be submitted to the IRB.


Guidelines for writing the interview paper:

            The paper should be approximately six pages in length.  You should also attach an appendix that includes the interview schedule and a transcription or your field notes of some portion of the interview.  The paper should address the following subjects: 


  • Clearly state the research question of the larger (actual or imagined) project of which this interview is a part. 
  • Briefly describe the sample of interviewees (actual or imagined).
  • Discuss what you learned about the interviewee’s specific field or area of activism and about doing research or being an activist 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.
  • Discuss the issues raised by course readings regarding feminist inquiry and the research relationship as well as the use of interviews, and how these issues apply to your particular interview project.


Individual Oral Presentations (One @ 10%)

  1. Feminist Research in your “home” discipline:  Prepare a presentation regarding how feminist research has transformed or is transforming research in your discipline.  Cover key developments regarding feminist research and the discipline, debates, major readings and authors, the principal journals, and other topics of note.  Handouts that summarize the presentation should be provided to all seminar participants. Option:  Students who wish to may also be asked to post a version of this project to the Women’s and Gender Studies website.



  1. Host a guest scholar in the classroom.  We will be reading works by several Rutgers-Newark scholars during the course of the semester, and will be welcoming each to the classroom for a discussion of their work or work-in-progress.


If you choose option (1), the oral presentation should be ten to twelve minutes in length.  The presentation should outline and highlight the key developments in the discipline noted above, and raise at least three or four open-ended questions for class discussion.  These questions should be included at the end of the written presentation summary.  The written summary and questions should be about one typewritten page in length (single-spaced), and students should prepare copies to be distributed in class.  Presenters should also try to draw connections between developments in their discipline and assigned course readings/topics when possible. 


Students are urged to utilize creativity in presentations; the goal is to inform the class as well as engender class discussion.  Grades for presentations will be based on both the quality and accuracy of the summary and the quality of the questions for class discussion.


If you choose option (2), your duties are as follows:  Introduce the scholar to the class by providing a brief biography of the scholar, and then briefly summarize the text that we have read.  This part of your presentation should be about 10 minutes in length.  Then, you should give our guest the opportunity to respond to your comments; we will ask scholars to keep their comments fairly brief.  Finally, you will serve as moderator for questions from your colleagues for the remainder of the discussion of our guest’s work.


Class Blog Entries (10%)

Scholars are frequently called upon to present their research to broader audiences, through a variety of popular venues.  One means that some scholars are adopting to present their work and their ideas in a different format and to a wider audience is through the use of blogs.  While far from common in many disciplines, it is a genre worth exploring.  And so we will explore the use of blogs as a way both to think about how scholarship might reach a broader audience and practice presenting the ideas that we are discussing in an accessible manner.


You will work in teams for this project, and we will conduct an internal class editing process prior to any public posting of the blogs.  We will use the blog feature in Blackboard for initial posting of blog essays and feedback from the instructor and your classmates.


The initial essay/blog written by each of the designated bloggers for the week should be 3 or 4 paragraphs in length and should discuss/comment on/respond to some aspect of the weekly readings.  It should be posted to Blackboard before class on the designated week.  We will take a look at the blogs during class, and then over the course of the week, each classmate should post at least one comment on the blogs, 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.  Then, by the following Monday, the original bloggers should revise their blog (which could involve combining the two essays, setting them up as a dialogue, or individually editing the original blog).


It is my hope that we could post these blogs, or at least some of them, on the Women’s and Gender Studies blog page.  This is not a requirement for the assignment, as I recognize that some of you may not be comfortable posting your blogs publicly.


The blogs will be graded on the thoughtfulness and originality of the final posting, the author’s incorporation of peer and instructor comments, 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.


Group Quantitative Data Project (10%)

            The purpose of this assignment is to help you become familiar with the type of data that is available from government and other published statistics, as well as advantages as well as the problems confronted with using such data.  You will also (hopefully) become a more critical consumer of published statistics, and of arguments made using such data.  This project is collaborative both so that you can draw upon the strengths of students in disciplines other than your own, and so that you can become acquainted with the process of doing collaborative research.  There will be some class time devoted to permitting you to work with your group but you should also plan to spend time outside of class which may involve meeting in person, by telephone, or electronically.

            You will work as a research team of 3 to 5 students.   We will all work on the same topic, and have a common set of readings.  Each group will prepare an oral report and presentation that includes tables and charts summarizing the data that you have gathered, and be asked to take a particular perspective regarding the data.  You will also prepare a written handout to provide to the rest of the class that summarizes your research question, findings, and provides information regarding your data sources.

            More information on this project will be provided as the semester progresses.


Research Proposal (45%)

This project will consist of

Preliminary Research Proposal (2.5%)

Research proposal and preliminary bibliography (5%)

            Preliminary Draft of Research Proposal (5%)

Class presentation of research proposal (2.5%)

            Research Proposal (25%)

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.


Schedule of Class Meetings:

(Note: starred items * indicate a reading available on Blackboard.)


January 23:  Introduction and Overview

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


January 30:  Introduction to Feminist Research

            Hawkesworth, Introduction and Ch. 1

            Ackerly and True, Ch. 1

Romero, Maid in the USA, Introduction to 10th Anniversary edition and Ch. 1

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


February 6: What is Feminist Research?

            Hawkesworth, Chs. 2 and 3  

            Ackerly and True Ch. 2 and 3

Reminder:  Interview Protocol and Human Subjects Consent Form due February 6


February 13: Feminism, Knowledge, Truth, and Power

Hawkesworth Chs. 4 and 5

Romero, Chs. 2 and 3

Ackerly and True Ch. 4

Reminder:  Preliminary Research Proposal due February 13


February 20: Library research methods

            We will meet in Dana Library and Natalie Borisovets will guide us through research in the library databases.


February 27:  Designing a research project; the research process

            Ackerly and True Ch. 5, 6, and 7

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

Bartkowski, Kissing Cousins, Prologue and ch. 1


March 5: Doing Feminist Research

            Hawkesworth, Ch. 6, 7 and 8

            Ackerly and True, Ch. 8 and 11

            Theresa Hunt, work in progress:

Dissertation methods chapter (chapter 2) and ISA 2012 paper



MARCH 8: WGS Symposium


March 12:  No class; spring break


March 19: Feminist Ethnographic Research; the Research Relationship

            *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

Romero, Maid in the USA, chs. 4 through 7 and afterword


Reminder: Research proposal statement (2 to 3 paragraphs) and bibliography due to instructor March 19


March 26:  Feminist Methods and Counting:  Using Numbers and Quantitative Data

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

            Ackerly and True, Ch. 9 and 10


Class project on data: Mancession vs. Shecession  READINGS TBA


April 2:  Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, and Feminist Research

            Bartkowski, Kissing Cousins, remainder of book


April 9:  Managing the Research Process:

            Ackerly and True, Ch. 12 through 14


April 12:  Domestic Workers Conference, Mary Romero, keynote


April 16:  Feminist Content Analysis and Mixed Methods Research

            Heidi Swarts, content analysis work in progress

* Mary Margaret Fonow and Judith A. Cook, “Feminist Methodology: New Applications in the Academy and Public Policy” Signs 30:2


April 23:  Putting it all together

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

Preliminary Draft of Research Proposals Due


April 30: 

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

Reminder: Interview papers due


May 7:  Final Research Proposal paper due