Social Research

Fourth edition

by Sotirios Sarantakos

Chapter 3 - Feminist Research

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Educational objectives
After completing this chapter, you will:
  1. have a critical understanding of the status of feminist research within the domain of social inquiry.
  2. be critically informed of the epistemological position of feminist research;
  3. have awareness of the research diversity within the feminist paradigm;
  4. have knowledge of the nature and criteria of feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint and feminist postmodernism;
  5. have a critical appreciation of feminist research and be able to appreciate its value and contribution to the quest for knowledge;
  6. have the necessary skills to conduct feminist research.


  • The nature of feminist research
  • Principles of feminist research
  • Feminist epistemology and methodology
  • Feminist research positions
  • Feminist research methods
  • Feminist critique of conventional research
  • Feminist mixed-method research
  • Concluding remarks

Points to remember

The following are the major points introduced in this chapter. Ensure that you are very confident with their meaning, content, context and significance.
  1. Feminist research studies, among other things, the status of women in a social context.
  2. Feminist research enlightens people about taken-for-granted sexist practices and gender-blindness of government and community practices
  3. The focus of feminist research is on changing the status of women in modern societies, on studying women, and on employing female feminist researchers.
  4. Feminist research is research on women, by women and for women.
  5. Feminist research is based on the assumption that the world is socially constructed, displays a relative aversion to empirical positivistic methodology, and accepts the value-laden nature of research.
  6. Feminist researchers employ a qualitative and or quantitative methodology although most researchers opt for the former.
  7. Feminist research employs mostly conventional methods. The methods that can be characterised as exclusively 'feminist' are in the minority.
  8. Characteristic for feminist research is not the methods it employs but the epistemology it follows.
  9. Briefly, feminist research is quantitative and qualitative research employed within a feminist paradigm.
  10. Feminist researchers who follow the interpretivist paradigm employ qualitative research.
  11. Feminist research is well constructed, well defended and very popular.
  12. Feminist research is not uniform but pluralistic. Most common is research based on feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint and feminist postmodernism.
  13. Feminist empiricism accepts and employs empiricist principles and practices within its research model, although tailored to meet feminist standards.
  14. Feminist standpoint research works on the assumption that women, due to their personal and social experience as females, are in a better position than men to face and understand the world of women.
  15. Feminist postmodernism rejects epistemological assumptions of modernism, the foundational grounding of knowledge, the universalising claims for the scope of knowledge, and the employment of dualist categories of thought
  16. Feminist research has not yet developed the parameters that are required for the development of a unique 'feminist methodology'.
  17. Mixed-method research is accepted option for feminist researchers.

Short-answer questions

Answer each question carefully (there is no need to write down the answer). Consult your Social Research text when your memory fails you or when you are in doubt about the accuracy of your responses.
  1. In what ways is feminist research different from quantitative research?
  2. In what ways is feminist research different from qualitative research?
  3. Which type of research is most effective; the quantitative, the qualitative or the feminist research?
  4. What are the main criteria of feminist empiricism?
  5. What are the most important characteristics of feminist standpoint research?
  6. What are the main principles of feminist postmodernism?
  7. What are the methodological criteria that are being shared by all three branches of feminist research?
  8. In what ways are the three branches of feminist research different from each other?
  9. Explain how research conducted by feminist empiricists differs from that conducted by quantitative researchers.
  10. Explain how research conducted by feminist standpoint theorists differs from research conducted by qualitative researchers.
  11. Discuss critically the notion that "feminists reject quantitative research and quantitative methods".
  12. In what ways is feminist research different from quantitative research?
  13. In what ways is feminist research different from qualitative research?
  14. What are the arguments in for and against feminist methodology?
  15. How can a common feminist methodology be justified if the various feminist branches do not share the same methodological principles?
  16. How do feminist researchers employ 'structured conceptualisation' in their research?

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Practical examples

Choose an article reporting findings of a project based on a feminist paradigm. Then:
  • Identify the type of feminist research that guided the research methodology.
  • Assess the extent to which the methods employed within this study addressed the focus of the research topic.
  • Explain how a qualitative researcher would have addressed this research topic.
  • Strictly in research terms, what is the major methodological advantage of using feminist research to address this topic?