Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies and Method

  • Belinda Wheaton
  • Beccy Watson
  • Louise Mansfield
  • Jayne Caudwell


There has been a long-standing debate about what makes research feminist. While methods themselves are not inherently gendered, feminists agree on the need for feminist questions to infuse all parts of the research process. One fundamental tenet in early debate about feminist research and epistemological standpoints was that feminist research constitutes research done ‘by women, for women’ (Stanley & Wise, 1993, p. 30) and, ‘where possible, with women’ (Doucet & Mauthner, 2006, p. 40). However, while the idea that there is a ‘distinctly feminist mode of enquiry’ (Maynard, 1994, p. 10) seems to be widely agreed on, what this might involve is less clear. For example, whereas for many there is a commitment to praxis or to creating social change, others are more concerned with critiquing dominant forms of knowing (see, e.g., Kelly, Burton, & Regan, 1994). Underpinning and complicating this question of a specifically feminist approach is an understanding or awareness of the relationship between methodology (the theory and analysis of how research is approached and proceeds), method (the techniques we use) and epistemology (ways of knowing and what counts as knowledge). And so, for example, early feminist research criticized quantitative methods as contrary to feminism’s epistemological basis (Maynard, 1994; Westmarland, 2001). However, increasingly a range of feminist epistemological stances have been advocated and adopted which provide the basis of feminist “truth” claims (Abbott & Wallane, 1997; Harding, 1991; Maynard, 1994) and alternative knowledges (see Barbour and Beal chapters). It is beyond our scope here to give a detailed explanation of these ongoing debates about the characteristics of feminist research; rather our intention is to alert the reader to this complex picture and the issues that underpin it.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Belinda Wheaton
    • 1
  • Beccy Watson
    • 2
  • Louise Mansfield
    • 3
  • Jayne Caudwell
    • 4
  1. 1.University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Leeds Beckett UniversityLeedsUK
  3. 3.Brunel UniversityLondonUK
  4. 4.Bournemouth UniversityPooleUK

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