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WGSS: Scholarly Research on Gender and Sexuality: Getting Started

A Library Resource Guide for Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

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Getting started with your research

Finding and evaluating research can be challenging with any topic, and even more so in subjects that are rapidly-growing and multidisciplinary in nature .  Below are some prompts to think about throughout your research.

What discipline or disciplines address this topic? What methodologies would best answer my question?

The concepts of gender and sexuality is explored in many different disciplines and using many methodologies.  

[image: word cloud with the following words: interdisciplinary, journalism, political, science, art, psychology, biology, theology, philosophy, multicultural, theater, sociology, natural, music, law. ethnic, hisotory, social, classics, studies, anthropology, english, communication ]

Start with background information on the topic

Before you jump into searching for new research on a topic, do some background reading on the topic to get an overview of the history of research and a review of concepts and terminologies. 

Subject encyclopedias, handbooks, reviews and dictionaries can be invaluable in this step.  

Find keywords and phrases to use to describe your question


  • Remember that the terminology can change, and will change depending on the question you are asking and where you are searching.
  • Use the encyclopedias mentioned above to get a better understanding of the terms and their definitions and their relationships to one another (see the Overviews and Encyclopedias tab for links).
  • See the Genderbread image below to help you understand some of the distinctions between different terms 

[image: a multicolored word cloud with many words related to gender and sexuality studies, including "cultural, globalization, languages, historical, biological, roles" and many more]

Search ... and search again

Try a few searches, don't worry about constructing them perfectly. Use your results to refine your search.

  • Too many results? Try being more specific or adding more terms.
  • Too few?  Try a broader term.
  • Did you find some results that are right on?
    • Take a look at the terms and phrases used by the author and try searching on those. 
    • Take a look at the bibliography to see what sources were used. 
    • Take a look at newer sources that cite the one you found to see how the research has evolved.

Evaluate your sources

As you read through the sources you've found, you'll need to evaluate whether that source is appropriate for your use.  Here are some things to think about.  

  • Relevance: does the source address your question at the appropriate level?
  • Timeliness: how recently was this published?  Does that matter?
  • Authority: who is making claims? What is their background?  Has the source been peer-reviewed?
  • Evidence: what evidence is provided? Are there citations to the evidence? Can you verify that evidence?  Does the evidence back up the claims being made?
  • Conversation: all scholarship is part of a broader conversation amongst scholars.  Take a look at who the source cites and who has since cited it to get a sense of where that source falls in the conversation.

The Genderbread Person: a guide to some of the terms and concepts

Separates gender identity, gender expression, sex, and sexuality along continua from none to masculine or feminine

For a more detailed description of the graphic, go to

Designed and developed by Sam Killerman. Thank you!