The Debates and Unresolved Issues Surrounding Feminist Research and its Distinction from Mainstream Research


  • Joanne Ardovini-Brooker



There are many questions surrounding feminism. Since the Women's Movement of the 1960's, there has
been an ongoing debate concerning the inclusion of women in leadership roles as well as the role of
women in research. The most frequently asked questions concerning women's roles in research, which
parallel those of women's leadership roles and styles, are: Is feminist research typically distinct from
other more mainstream research within the Social Sciences? And are there specific feminist methods?
There has been a long-standing debate addressing such questions. If one believes that feminist research is
research about women, by women, and for women, then one may conclude that there are distinct methods
that feminists use to study the oppression of women. Also, if one believes, as does Liz Stanley (1993),
that there is a direct relationship between feminist consciousness and feminism, then there is research that
is distinctly feminist. However, one could argue that no matter what the political ideologies of the
researcher, the research methods remain the same.
In trying to answer the above posed questions, we need to examine not only political ideologies as
suggested by Stanley. We also need to examine the goals of research, the assumptions made by the
researcher, the methods utilized by the researcher, the methodology, and epistemology that lay the
foundation for research. All these criteria will assist us in making clear distinctions between feminist
research and mainstream research. Yet, we must keep in mind that many researchers, including feminist
researchers, continue to struggle with the very issues presented in this paper, which remain unresolved.
Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to grant the reader with an overview of the debates and unresolved
issues surrounding feminist research.