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Critical Sexuality Studies and Research Methodologies From Advancing Sexuality Studies: a short course on sexuality theory and research methodologies.

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Presentation on theme: "Critical Sexuality Studies and Research Methodologies From Advancing Sexuality Studies: a short course on sexuality theory and research methodologies."— Presentation transcript:

1 Critical Sexuality Studies and Research Methodologies From Advancing Sexuality Studies: a short course on sexuality theory and research methodologies

2 22 Schedule Learning activityTime allowed Introduction & aims 5 mins Session 1. What is research? Key terms and concepts Brainstorm & lecture Pre-readings discussion Mini lecture 120 mins 55 mins 60 mins 5 mins Session 2. Research matters in Critical Sexuality Studies Lecture Ethical issues: guided reading 45 mins 20 mins Session 3. Conceptualising and designing CSS research Research design diagram & lecture Group work Lecture & brainstorm Lecture & group work 250 mins 25 mins 65 mins 25 mins 80 mins 55 mins Conclusion5 mins Total425 mins

3 33 Module aims To introduce participants to key terms and approaches within research methodologies To consider the intersections between ways of understanding the world, methodology and field methods, and the implications for Critical Sexuality Studies research To examine the research design process, from a Critical Sexuality Studies perspective

4 44 Participants will: Develop an understanding of issues specific to conducting research on sexuality, including the ethical, political, cultural and social implications of sexuality as a field of inquiry Obtain basic familiarity with how to design a research project Be able to apply the principles of Critical Sexuality Studies methodologies to the development of a research project in co-operation with other members of the group

5 55 Session 1. What is research? Key terms and concepts

6 66 Brainstorm What research experiences have you had? (10 mins) –Report back to whole group (10 mins) What might be a working definition of research? (10 mins) Research: from 16 th century French recerche / recercher –To go about seeking A search or investigation directed to the discovery of some fact by careful consideration or study of a subject; a course of critical or scientific inquiry ( (OED online) … research is probably one of the dirtiest words in the Indigenous worlds vocabulary (Tuhiwai Smith, [1998] 2008: 1)

7 77 Research methodology The view of what constitutes a methodology … in the context of social research is a contentious issue (Sarantakos, [1993] 1994: 32) … the logical principles underlying the organisation of … the conduct of scientific enquiry (Macquarie Dictionary 1981) or: The best means of acquiring knowledge about the world (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005: 183)

8 A CSS understanding Within Critical Sexuality Studies, methodology is understood to include ways of understanding the world –Inextricably linked to ways of acquiring knowledge about the world Methodology also includes the field methods one chooses 8

9 99 The complexity of knowledge Ways of understanding the world often presented by simplistic division between: Most people hold elements of both, but preference one over the other Knowledge as objective = dominant Knowledge as objectiveKnowledge as subjective Existing outside of human experience Non-context dependent Singular truth for each question; fixed Within the realm of human experience Dependent on socio-cultural, historical, political, emotional, experiential context Multiple truths ; shifting

10 10 Objective/subjective? Objective understanding of knowledge tends to lead to quantitative research approaches: –Counting what, who, when, where … to try and establish causal relationships and patterns of association Subjective understanding tends to lead to qualitative research approaches: –Gathering opinions, beliefs, experiences, meanings to try and understand the why or how of a research topic

11 11 Quantitative approach In general, a quantitative approach: –Looks for causal or law-like explanations and descriptions of patterns or association –Focuses on data in numerical form, in non-natural settings Deductive: works downwards and inwards from a hypothesis Requires larger samples –Look for generalisation through obtaining large sample size and predicting majority trends (and differences) Main research method is survey/questionnaire –Other methods include social network analysis –Uses mainly statistical analysis to evaluate associations

12 12 Qualitative approach In general, a qualitative approach will: –Seek in-depth and subjective understandings Focus on rich or thick description Smaller samples, in naturalistic settings Inductive: works upwards and outwards from specific observations to broader generalisations and theories Looks for applicability of findings at socio-cultural process level Expectation that the researcher will be reflexive Many field methods, often in combination –e.g. in-depth interviews, focus groups discussions, textual analysis, participant observation, participatory action research

13 13 Comparison of quantitative and qualitative methods QuantitativeQualitative Philosophical foundation Deductive, reductionistInductive, holistic Aim To test pre-set hypothesis To explore complex human issues Study plan Step-wise, predeterminedIterative, flexible Position of researcher Aims to be detached and objective Integral part of research process Assessing quality of outcomes Direct tests of validity & reliability using statistics Indirect quality assurance methods of trustworthiness Measures of utility of results GeneralisabilityTransferability Marshall (1996: 524)

14 14 CSS research Sexuality is an intersubjectively negotiated, social and historical product Qualitative methods seen to offer the best framework for interpreting sexual meanings, identities and categories (Gamson, 2000) Approach and field methods chosen in any particular research project will be influenced by the overarching methodology

15 15 Pre-readings discussion Focus questions –Kavanagh et al. (2002) What do the authors mean when they argue we must begin to investigate the process of research? –May (2001) What are the differences between positivism and realism? Why have feminist researchers been critical of science and social scientific approaches to research? (15 mins + 20 mins feedback) Brainstorm: –In your experience, is one research approach given more legitimacy than another? If so, why? (20 mins)

16 16 Research design principles Well-designed research will: –Show a clear link between the overall methodology, the research approach and the field methods –Be well thought through and have a precise focus What are the issues? Are the research questions well crafted? What do you want the project to accomplish? How might this be achieved? What dissemination plans or training might be needed? –Meet with funding/grant application requirements –Leave a paper trail, documenting all steps taken –Be ethical What about anonymity, security, safety? For researchers and researched?

17 17 Session 2. The importance (and difficulty) of CSS research

18 18 CSS research: an overview CSS work is multifaceted and multidisciplinary, but: –Always requires a focus on the shifting relationships of power, knowledge, context, and culture CSS research tends towards qualitative inquiry –Needs to be theory-driven, usually empirically inductive –Many field methods, constantly evolving Capable of generalisation: processes, practices, social dynamics (rarely population predictive)

19 19 CSS research: challenges Difficult field to research –Site of secrecy, shame, stigma and discrimination –Strong historical, political, legal and socio-cultural influences Complex relationship to other social phenomena, e.g. gender, social class/SES, ethnicity/race, postcoloniality/orientalism, age/generation Non-normative behaviours or identities often heavily policed by religious and legal guardians Mandatory reporting requirements (e.g. knowledge of illegal acts) –Ethical issues Human subjects research ethics Ethics and human rights Intrusiveness: public health imperatives vs. sexual rights/privacy

20 20 CSS research: challenges cont. –Enormous breadth of possible research topics, often occurring on a huge scale e.g. rape in war, teenage pregnancy, HIV –Rapidly changing field, e.g. globalisation, commodification –Cross-cultural challenges –Dominance of public health approach Quantitative research with large sample sizes often considered more legitimate than qualitative, small sample size research Continually perceived incommensurability between qualitative and quantitative approaches and methods Reliability (replicability of findings) vs. validity (the strength of conclusions, inferences or propositions)

21 21 CSS research: challenges Many different disciplines involved in sexuality research –Particular disciplines or intellectual approaches favour particular field methods and methodologies Social sciences and humanities Media and cultural studies Legal studies Womens and gender studies Educational research …

22 22 Does CSS research matter? Research can affect social changeknowledge is power –It can be influential in encouraging and teaching the next generation of sexuality researchers –Effective, recognised research can lead to funding, career development, publishing, teaching, tenure, etc. Institutional and professional roles are changed by research –It contributes to the expansion of established knowledge regarding an issue or topic –It requires consideration of relationships and responsibilities shared between researchers and the researched

23 23 Ethical issues Knowledge is power, but: –Who owns it? Who gets to use it? Who holds the power? –What is our relationship with, responsibility towards, and negotiated understanding with, those we are researching? –Requires reflexivity Guided reading – Researching the Margins (2007) eds. Pitts and Smith, pp Focus question: –Obtaining official ethics approval is an ethical requirement of research. What else might you need to consider, during the research process? (10 mins) –Feedback (15 mins)

24 24 Session 3. Conceptualising and designing CSS research

25 25 Main steps in research design Research is an iterative, not linear, process –The broad segments of a research project are: Develop research outputs, disseminate findings Analysis Fieldwork Define the specific research project Map the larger context & identify the key social issue or concern to be researched

26 26 Starting a research project Identify the key social issue or concern to be researched ( what to research) by drawing on: –The larger context –Broad research purposes What do we want to achieve? Why should we do this research? –Crucial audiences Whom do we need to reach, target and inform in order to meet our research purposes? –Possible research outputs What might we produce, to reach our audiences and meet our purposes? –Literature review What knowledge already exists? Where are the gaps? 26

27 Starting a research project cont. 27 Define the specific research project –Give it a title Make a statement about what you are trying to do Bring the research focus to the fore, through the title Dont be obscure or too clever. Remember: keyword searches! –Define research objectives –Define your research questions

28 28 The larger context Research occurs within a web of interlinking fields: –Political and social Are conditions favourable? What types of funding opportunities are available, and what types of research are likely to get funded? –Professional/academic Your work needs to fit the current agendas of industry, academia in general, and your discipline in particular It should build upon and/or develop your own knowledge and expertise, foster your interest and passion, develop your professional field or discipline

29 29 Broad research purposes Consider: –What is the larger social problem or issue to which your new research project will make a contribution? e.g. gender-based violence, young people and sexuality, the media and sexuality etc. –What overarching impact do you hope this research will have Bearing in mind the interlinking fields in which the research will occur? –Research purposes (or aims) should be big picture Preferably just 1-2 purposes e.g. This research aims to broaden knowledge and understanding of … and therefore contribute to …

30 30 Crucial audiences Is it important that the research be done? –To whom? For whom? Do you want to create change? If so, where and with whom? Academe, colleagues in field, theorists? Government, policy? Action, programs, practices? Direct stakeholders, funders, agencies? Respondents, communities? 30

31 31 Possible research outputs What would the research need to deliver, in order to reach the crucial audiences and achieve the research purposes? –Will you deliver a report, training materials, workshops? –Might different types of audience require different types of outputs? –Producing different kinds of outputs affects what kind of data or information your research needs to find Take note: this may change over the life of the project, particularly if you undertake action research 31

32 32 Why? –An expected part of grant applications –Sets the stage, through assessing knowledge to date Knowledge of the social problem or issue, and of the larger context Knowledge of the methodological habits or theories surrounding that problem or issue, as well as of the larger context Knowledge of gaps in existing literature –Enables identification of major players, theories, possible publication sites, audiences The literature review

33 The literature review cont. 33 How? –Searching around a topic, not just within it Think laterally Develop an up-to-date reference list, with academic quality citations (EndNote?) Annotate readings for key themes emerging as you go –Online searching of databases, manual library searches –Allow the literature review to evolve with the research project The literature review is the base on which academic research is built

34 34 Specific project design Defining the specific project –What is its title ? Important to be clear, succinct and precise –One project cannot research everything: what part of the larger social problem or issue are you going to research? e.g. in the larger social problem of issue of young people and sexuality, your new project will investigate: the importance of sex education or first sexual activity, or experiences of sexual coercion, or beliefs about love and romance etc. –What are its specific objectives (sometimes called goals )? What is it that you want to do: e.g. develop a better understanding of sex education curricula, or uncover new knowledge about first sexual activity

35 35 Research questions –Connection to theory –Provide the focus for your research What do you seek answers to? Be succinct, capture the theory in the question, and limit yourself to 2-4 core questions Relationship between questions needs to be clear –either sequential, additional or hierarchical –Bear in mind the larger context and the projects objectives –Research questions formulated before you consider the field methods Can be refined as methodology continues to develop 35

36 36 Types of research questions Either: –Questions to be answered or –Springboard to development or reconstruction of theory Open-ended questions: –Not causal or directional, use exploratory terms (explore, discover, investigate) Closed questions: –Seek to show causal link, look for definite answers (yes/no, points on a scale etc.) Core question/s subsidiary questions

37 37 Group work Teenage pregnancy & contraception case study ( Handout A ) –Read handout (5 mins) –Define: The overall research purpose The crucial audiences A specific research issue or problem The possible outputs you might you aim for (based on the audiences) The broad scope (and sites) for an initial literature search The research project title Your project objectives Your project-specific research questions (30 mins) Feedback (30 mins)

38 38 Next steps Project design + methodology, approach, field method(s) –No one Critical Sexuality Studies methodology, but all CSS research is: Critical of objective claims to knowledge Attentive to the ways sexuality is invested with social and cultural meaning in specific contexts –Reviewing methodology and connections between research design is part of the reflexive process –Aiming for a methodologically coherent design

39 39 The practical aspects Based on your research questions : –Where are you most likely to find the information (data) that will give you answers? – People tend to be central to finding answers in sexuality research As individuals per se, as types of individuals, and/or as specifically nominated individuals Sometimes clusters of people are more important; for example: –Communities (e.g. a gay community) –Sub-cultures (e.g. artists) –Locales (e.g. a village) –Cohorts (e.g. 15-year-old girls) –People with distinguishing characteristics (e.g. people with disabilities) or –Patterns of association (e.g. military hierarchies) Defining your research object(s) and object boundaries is crucial to the research process –The space(s) in which you will be asking questions and collecting information or data Different types of research object: –Experiences E.g. Events, places and times, histories, experiences of certain issues (health, sexuality) –Processes E.g. institutions, relationships, interactions 39

40 40 Beyond people… Consider looking beyond people as such, and towards: –Experiences e.g. particular events, places and times, certain issues (health, sexuality) –Processes e.g. institutions, relationships, interactions –Practices e.g. drug-taking, sexual, social, educational, sport –Ideas or concepts e.g. authority, hegemony, pedagogy, competitiveness, stigma, racism, homophobia, sin, pleasure –Useful research on all of the above could be carried out entirely through secondary sources e.g. collecting and analysing documentation 40

41 Sampling Having identified your research data source (people or things), you need a sampling framework –How big is your data source? If you are looking at 15-year-old schoolgirls, the number will be very large If you are looking at an organisations guideline documents, the number will be relatively small –Is it both feasible and necessary for you to involve all of your data source? Does your approach call for a larger, statistically representative sample size (quantitative) or rich narrative data (qualitative)? Do you want to generalise outwards from the data source, or do you want to show relevance to a broader population? 41

42 Dont forget… Decisions on who will be involved, and in what capacity, should all be based on your research questions –Supported by your literature review, research experience, key informant information etc. Other players in the research process. These include: –Those who control access to the research object (gatekeepers) –Broader stakeholders (e.g. should there be an advisory group?) 42

43 Choosing field methods What is the most suitable method for obtaining the data or information you require from your research data source? –Decision will be based on: Experience (yours and others) Feasibility –Budget? –Staff? –Time? Research purposes, objectives and crucial audiences Flexibility and reflexivity in the field Disciplinary specialities 43

44 Who uses which field methods? Examples of research approach, method and disciplinary connection ApproachField methodPrimary related discipline? Qualitative Participant observationAnthropology Textual analysisLiterature / media studies Semi-structured, unstructured or structured interview Multi-disciplinary Life stories / narrative theory / genealogy Sociology / history Quantitative Structured interviewMulti-disciplinary SurveyEpidemiology ExperimentPsychology / sexology Social network analysis (SNA)Psychology 44

45 And then… Approach and field methods determine analysis options –Thematic analysis, or statistical regression? NVivo or SPSS? Printouts and scissors, or a calculator? –Large range of analytic approaches, again, often chosen based on disciplinary preferences Regression analysis, multi-level analysis, analysis of variance … Critical discourse analysis, thematic analysis, content analysis … –Analysis incorporated as an integral part of the research process (action research)? 45

46 46 Ethical issues From the research design phase, begin to consider: –What possible physical or emotional risks could arise during the research process (including risk to the researchers)? –What ethics processes will you need to go through? e.g. University, hospital, government department, national guidelines, NGO/INGO… What requirements will you face? –e.g. data storage, information to be provided to participants, nature of informed consent, report back to those involved…

47 Ethical issues cont. All processes for ethical approval require you to have clear, well thought-out rationale and methods for: –Recruitment –Gaining informed consent (written or oral) In addition, researchers need to reflect on their moral responsibilities in terms of: –Participant safety & minimisation of intrusion –Promising confidentiality and/or anonymity –Gaining consent 47

48 Beyond ethics approval Other ethical considerations: –Staff safety (physical and emotional) –Staff confidentiality agreements –Report-back provisions –Ensuring that publication or dissemination of research material is ethically acceptable to everyone involved –Your work will be peer-reviewed. Are there conflicts of interest? 48

49 49 Research design: a review Iterative process –Identify the key social issue or concern to be researched Pulling together the larger context, broad research purposes, crucial audiences, possible research outputs, literature review –Define the specific research project Give it a title, define your research objectives, project-specific research questions Decide your methodology, approach, field methods, analysis method –Undertake fieldwork –Analysis –Disseminate the findings (bearing in mind the crucial audiences and overall research purpose)

50 50 Group work Returning to Handout A, review your research questions and design to date then identify: –People who might be involved in a research project, and how (Research data source? Gatekeepers? Advisors?) –What research approach and field method(s) would you use? –What particular ethical challenges might arise? (30 mins) Feedback (30 mins)

51 51 Proposals for funding Large variety of funding application formats –Considerable variation in meaning of terms used: Methodology, method, field method, approach; participants, subjects, co-researchers; aims, goals, objectives, purpose –Common requirements: Research project title Background statement (social issue, brief literature review, theory, how you got to this starting point for this project) A cohesive, coherent project conceptualisation and design –Research purpose, objectives, research population/people involved, sampling, ethical issues (and responses), approach, field methods, analysis, research outputs, dissemination plan

52 Proposals for funding cont. 52 Administrative / organisational details, partnerships Host or administering organisation Details of project management and financial oversight Budget and budget justification Rationale for involvement of project staff members (based on their track record) Procedures for ensuring ethically acceptable research –Which ethics committees will you be applying to? –What procedures will you put in place to minimise the potential of harm? Timeline –All of which takes a great deal of time to complete 52

53 53 Dissemination A research project is not complete until the findings have been disseminated effectively –Effective dissemination means: Achieving the project aim by reaching the crucial audiences in appropriate ways As and where appropriate, ensuring research participants (and other gatekeepers/key informants) are kept up to date –Crucial audiences could include: Funding bodies Involved professionals Professional associations Think tanks Activist groups Other researchers

54 Dissemination modes Different audiences, different modes of dissemination: –Report (interim and final) Essential with most funding bodies –Executive summary or summary of recommendations Useful with bodies that may fund future research –De-briefing meeting(s) With project researchers and advisers –Workshops With participants, activists or professionals –Newsletters For participants, also for professional organisations 54

55 Dissemination modes cont. Other possible modes of dissemination: –Academic articles, professional journals, books –Conferences –Government briefings, funder briefings –Community events with key speakers –Training materials –Radio and TV, newspapers and magazines, media kits –ISBN/ISSN nos, electronic storage (e.g. list serves, repositories) –Legal deposit (e.g. national libraries, universities, Parliament) 55

56 Group work Returning to the teenage pregnancy and contraception research case study, develop a draft dissemination plan –Again, keep in mind your: Overall research purposes Crucial audiences Specific project objectives Project outputs (20 mins) Feedback (20 mins) 56

57 Conclusion CSS can be an emotionally (and occasionally legally) fraught field to research –it is also a valuable and highly important one Need for well thought-out, coherent research that adds to our understanding of human sexuality within a social, cultural, political framework Good research can facilitate social, cultural and political change 57

58 58 Module created by: –Professor Gary W. Dowsett, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society –With input from Dr Sean Slavin, Ms Gillian Fletcher, Mr Murray Couch, Dr Duane Duncan and Dr Jon Willis Short course developed by: –The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia and –The International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS) –With funding from The Ford Foundation Available under an Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike licence from Creative Commons

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