An Example of Feminist Theory Research in Action!

Barata, Hunjan and Leggatt (2005) present their article, "Ivory tower? Feminist woman's experiences of graduate school" as a feminist methodology research paper. The authors take the reader through their research project from the initial conception, to the discussion process and then, to their conclusions, recommendations and observations. This article is well written as an example of feminist research theory. The researchers are themselves active participants in a documented discussion process through which they wish to evoke a feminist ideology. The ideology is supported by putting women at the center of the study, aspiring to have the research ultimately benefit women and providing an accurate reflection of each woman's experiences (p. 233).

10 women acted as both researcher and participant within the study where the method of research involved, "a group discussion facilitated by each woman's concrete representation (i.e. objects, words, and pictures) of her time in graduate school" (p. 232). The resulting article was authored by 3 of the women acting in the role of both researcher and participant. However, following analysis and categorization of the tape recorded sessions, the researchers shared the manuscript with their co-participants in an effort to obtain approval, verify interpretation and share the continuing procedure. It is important to note that each of the three authors, in their own field of psychology, had not previously explored a feminist research theory methodology. They frequently share with the reader the challenges they encountered in exploring this new area of feminist research. In keeping with a feminist methodology, also included in the paper are various quotes from the group of women that support the themes identified and the findings of the research.

In a discussion of the strengths and limitations of the research method Barate et. al., focus on the concerns raised by their co-researchers/participants; reflection on an apparent "lack of clear goals" is explored (p. 242).

Through development of a single overriding theme, and four major associated themes, Barata etc al., highlight both positive and negative experiences within the group's graduate school study that are brought forward from their feminist perspective (p. 232).

Key quotes from the article relating to Feminist Theory Methodology:

"By focusing on our own experiences we hoped to ensure that women were at the centre of our inquiry, and that our topic was relevant to each of the participants" (p. 233).

"Through [feminist theory] approach, we hoped to reduce [the] power differential and create a project in which we, the participants, gave our own voice to the research" (p. 233).

"a qualitative approach would allow us to talk about our own experiences in our own words and from our own perspectives" (p. 233).

"Major themes were identified based on reading the transcript and summarizing meaningful information" (p. 234).

"The themes that emerged were organized in order to encompass as many of the important elements of the discussion as possible while keeping in mind our goal of explaining feminist women's graduate school experiences and not simply women's experiences of graduate school" (p. 234-235).

"One of the goals of our project was to evaluate whether or not our method was feminist research. To meet this goal, we came together again as a group of 10 to talk about the research process. Thus we have a unique perspective on the strengths and limitations of this study" (p. 241).

Themes which evolved:

Overriding theme - "Identity of feminist women in graduate school"4 major themes encompassed (see diagram)


Reasons for the article selection:

"Ivory tower? Feminist woman's experiences of graduate school" was written by three women affiliated with institutions in Southwestern Ontario (The University of Windsor; University Health Network, Toronto; St. John's Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto; Children First, Windsor). Two of our three group members are from the Southwestern Ontario area.

In presenting the Feminist Theory Methodology, our group is comprised of 3 women within graduate level education. Barata, Hunjan and Leggatt's article offered insight to the feminist experience that we could each use to reflect on our own graduate level experiences.

The article clearly followed a feminist methodology. They included both researcher and participant and consulted the group on all aspects of the research. An activist approach common in feminist theory is supported by Barata, et. al. (2005), within their conclusions outlining recommendation to evoke change.