Home/Main Menu     Site Map

Record Type: Review   ID: 191

Feminist Methods in Social Research

Reinharz, Shulamit, with Davidman, Lynn

 Reinharz is a sociologist from Brandeis University, where she also directs the Women’s Studies Program. She takes an empirical grounded approach, not a philosophical one, to feminist research methods in that she analyzes research by feminists to examine the methods they actually used and why they say they used them. Her criterion for accepting a study as an example of feminist research was that the author had to identify herself—or himself—"as a feminist doing research" (p. 7). Space permits only citing the types of research covered and a line or two about them, but this book deserves to be read word for word in order to obtain some idea of the variations and emphases and insights of feminist research, which among other things, emphasizes subjectivity as much or more than the standard scientific emphasis on objectivity. Reinharz’s first chapter is on feminine interview research, pointing out that semistructured or even unstructured interviews are a major feminist research method along with grounded theory. This approach is valued not only because the interviewees speak for themselves, but some researchers have even analyzed the way they speak. The work of British sociologist Ann Oakley is cited, who "advocated a new model of feminist interviewing that strove for intimacy and included self-disclosure and ‘believing the interviewer’" (p. 27). This is an approach that I have found useful in informal interviews with EHEers. It contrasts sharply with the mainstream research aim of objectivity, but when mining for gold, you have to go where the gold is. In the case of EHEs, self-disclosure on the part of the interviewer is almost as important as that of the experiencer. Chapter 3 is on feminist ethnography, which has emphasized a social constructive, and interpretive approach rather than a positivist perspective. Reinharz points out, in her review of feminist survey and other statistical research, that feminists are ambivalent about its value. When it comes to feminist experimental research, Reinharz found it almost impossible to "present feminist ‘voices’ doing experimental research" because it ‘discourages the use of the first person singular, eliminates reference to actual people, and attributes actions to concepts" (p. 95). Hence, her analysis is mainly confined to ‘feminist experimenters’ discussions about experimental methods" (p. 95), mostly critical. There follow chapters on cross-cultural research, oral history, and content analysis. Chapter 9 is on case studies, which have been an important tool in feminist research as for the study of exceptional human experiences. Feminists have used it to document history and generate theory" (p. 174). Action research is specifically feminist in its attempt not only to research social reality but to intervene and improve upon it. Reinharz points out that all feminist research has action components. There is certainly cause for action research regarding EHEs, for in spite of their apparent prevalence, they are still devalued in Western society. An important chapter concerns "feminist multiple methods research," an approach that has been advocated in parapsychology by William Braud and Carlos Alvarado, in which both qualitative and quantitative, subjective and objective approaches are used. This does appear to be a promising approach to EHEs as well. Perhaps the most important chapter is the one on original feminist research methods. Reinharz covers consciousness-raising, creating group diaries, drama, genealogy and network tracing, the nonauthoritative research voice or multiple-person stream-of-consciousness narrative, conversation, using intuition or writing associatively, identification, studying unplanned personal experience, structured conceptualizations, photo-graphy or talking-pictures technique, speaking freely into a tape recorder or answering long, essay-type questionnaires. Several of these could be of interest in studying EHEs. In her chapter of conclusions, Reinharz provides an inductive view of feminist methodology based on the reports she studied. She identified 10 major themes that characterize feminist research, each of which is discussed in the chapter. They are: (1) Feminism is a perspective, not a research method. (2) Feminists use a multiplicity of research methods. (3) Feminist research involves an ongoing criticism of nonfeminist scholarship. (4) Feminist research is guided by feminist theory. (5) Feminist research may be transdisciplinary. (6) Feminist research aims to create social change. (7) Feminist research strives to represent human diversity. (8) Feminist research frequently includes the researcher as a person. (9) Feminist research frequently attempts to develop special relations with the people studied (in interactive research). (10) Feminist research frequently defines a special relation with the reader. As Reinharz emphasizes, this book is about women’s ways of knowing and feminist research methods—the emphasis is definitely on pluralism.
Publisher Information:New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. 414p. Bibl: 350-400; Chap. bibl: 271-349; Index: 401-413
Previous Record Previous
in this

List All Titles in This Category (59)

Book Reviews Menu
in this

Click a section below to move around the EHEN website.
Home/Menu       About EHEs      EHE Autobiographies      EHE Book Reviews      EHE FAQ      EHE Network      Email Talk      Experiences Library      Info/Contact      Join Us!      Living EHEs      Parapsychology      Rhea White      Web Links      Web Talk      What's New     

All website graphics, materials and content copyright © 1997-2003
by EHE Network. All rights reserved. For permissions
please contact EHEN's Executive Director, Rhea A. White.

Web Media Management by Palyne Gaenir of ScienceHorizon.

Exceptional Human Experience Network
Exceptional Human Experience Network