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Women and Gender Studies-Research Guide for WGS 170, 2018-2019: Finding Your Subject and Question

Learning experiences about gender issues are at the core of this course and this guide will present resources to use as you complete the course's expectations and assignments.

Finding Your Topic; Shaping a Question

Finding Your Subject-the Narrowing Challenge

Let’s Think Together for a Moment

I know that you will be working this semester on selecting a topic for research in WGS 170. I have some suggestions you may want to consider as you do choose a subject. In a nutshell here they are:

·         When trying to pick a topic for a project in WGS 170, start with an interest that you already have. Ask yourself: Did I read something for this class that really got me curious and wanting to know more? Did I come into this class because of an interest in gender studies? What specifically catches my attention? What would I actually LIKE to know more about?

·         After you determine a genuine interest, see if you can state it out loud (to yourself) as a topic. Listen to this example: “I am really interested in young fathers. (This is because I’ve known some guys who became dads early in life and they took it seriously.) Now I need to say this as a topic. So I want to study young fathers’ experiences in the first few years of fatherhood.”

·         So once you have a topic, proceed to search for a specific question (or questions) you are interested in. Here’s a first try: How do fathers aged 19-22 care for their child? How do they work out child care when they have to be away? Do they have a good relationship with the mother of the child? Do they work and go to school too? How do they work that out?

·         So from all those questions is there one overall that would be a question worth asking? “What are some of the challenges a young father has being a dad, student, employee, son, or boyfriend of their child’s mother? What are some rewards and problems that young dads have?

“But I don’t have any ideas!”

If you aren’t interested at first in one particular thing, what can you do to get some ideas? Here are some thoughts:

·         Look at your class readings again and see if there’s something you missed that you could use.

·         Talk to others in the class and brainstorm about subjects relating to gender that are in the news.

It occurs to me that choosing a subject (and eventually a question for research) is an opportunity to learn something new. If you can see it that way, your perspective may change and something really good may present itself.


Reference: Booth, Wayne C. et al The Craft of Research, 3rd ed. University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Take a look at this book if you are interested in further reading.




























A Picture of the Process of Finding a Subject and Shaping it Into A Question


Worksheet, including Keyword Searching Tips

Interest- write some general ideas here

Topic or subject (possible subject) here

Keywords and synonyms that relate: (Visit this site for a guide to keyword searching:)

To take a big subject and shape it into a workable question try:

  • Limit the geographical scope (ex: town, city, state, region, country)
  • Limit the time you want to know about: ex: 19th or 20th century, yesterday, last year, right now
  • Limit the population group you are interested in: (ex: adolescent women, college women, college men, male and female adults 25-40 years of age)
  • Add another variable to the population group (ex: gay, lesbian, bisexual, African-American, veteran, working, not-employed, name of a profession,        health condition
  • Try a certain perspective: historical, scientific, feminist
  •  Use who, what, where, when, why



Space to write out some test questions:

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Carroll Wilkinson's picture
Carroll Wilkinson
Wise Library, Rm 2206B