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Approaches to Researching Females and STEM

Lynda R. Wiest, Ph.D.
University of Nevada, Reno
March 2012

Below are suggested approaches to researching females and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

  • Conduct varied types of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research to provide both quantitative power and nuanced insights on females and STEM. Create instruments, methods, and analyses designed to provide such information. In mixed-gender research, disaggregate data by sex and other social identities, such as race/ethnicity and social class.
  • Consider females' cognition and dispositions, as well as education practices, curricula, and materials. For example, what academic and everyday skills and personal and academic identities contribute to interest, perseverance, and success in STEM?
  • Research critical factors that positively and negatively influence females' access to, dispositions toward, and participation, performance, and experiences in STEM over time. Include attention to the role of in- and out-of-school intervention measures, as well as education policy and its implementation. Investigate phenomena both in the present and retrospectively.
  • Investigate the role of significant individuals in relation to females and STEM, such as peers, family members, education professionals (including teacher educators), and employers. Also consider the role played by the media and other information/image sources, among other contextual factors related to the lived experiences of females.
  • Attend to intersections among social identities, such as gender with race/ethnicity, social class, and/or non-native language status. Consider the role of culture, and make cross-cultural comparisons within and across nations.

As with any research, it is important to identify gaps in existing research and to attempt to fill those gaps, as well as to contribute to theory regarding females and STEM.

Selected Resources

  • Damarin, S., & Erchick, D. (2010). Toward clarifying the meanings of gender in mathematics education research. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 41(4), 310-323.
  • Evans, J., & Tsatsaroni, A. (2009). Methodologies of research into gender and other social differences within a multi-faceted conception of social justice. In P. Ernest, B. Greer, & B. Sriraman (Eds.), Critical issues in mathematics education (pp. 395-421). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Wedege, T. (2011). Gender as a foreground and a background in mathematics education research. In C. Rudälv & B. Melander (Eds.), Kvinnor och matematik: Konferens den 14-16 juni 2009, Konferensrapport (pp. 55-65). Umeå: Print&media, Umeå universitet. Available at http://dspace.mah.se/handle/2043/13210

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