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Aligning Your Research Methods with Your Social Justice Values

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2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track: Special Topic - Social Justice and Reform Technical Session I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Special Topic: Social Justice & Reform

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Paper Authors


Emily Alicia Affolter University of Washington

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Emily Alicia Affolter, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Scientist and Equity Consultant for the University of Washington's Center for Evaluation and Research for STEM Equity. She also works as Associate Faculty for Prescott College's Ph.D. program in Sustainability Education. Dr. Affolter's scholarship is rooted in culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy.

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Elizabeth Litzler University of Washington

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Elizabeth Litzler, Ph.D., is the director of the University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (UW CERSE) and an affiliate assistant professor of sociology. She has been at UW working on STEM Equity issues for more than 13 years. Dr. Litzler is a member of ASEE and a former board member of the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN). Her research interests include the educational climate for students, faculty, and staff in science and engineering, assets based approaches to STEM equity, and gender and race stratification in education and the workforce.

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Cara Margherio University of Washington

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Cara Margherio is the Assistant Director of the University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE). Cara manages the evaluation of several NSF- and NIH-funded projects, primarily working with national professional development programs for early-career academics from groups underrepresented in STEM. She is also currently serving as a Virtual Visiting Scholar of the ADVANCE Research and Coordination Network. Her research is grounded in critical race and feminist theories, and her research interests include community cultural wealth, counterspaces, intersectionality, and institutional change.

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Emily Knaphus-Soran University of Washington

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Emily Knaphus-Soran is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE) at the University of Washington. She works on the evaluation of several projects aimed at improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM fields. She also conducts research on the social-psychological and institutional forces that contribute to the persistence of race and class inequalities in the United States. Emily earned a PhD and MA in Sociology from the University of Washington, and a BA in Sociology from Smith College.

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We at the Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity operate with a critical orientation, meaning issues of social justice inform our thinking and acting in research methodology, design, data collection, and analysis. Social justice is central to what questions we ask, how we ask them, what methodologies we use, and how we work with partners to advance equity in STEM. This work requires unlearning how we were trained: we still revert to dominant norms on a daily basis.

This interactive workshop explores the power and possibility of transformative research methods, looking at how research methods themselves can have an impact on either the reinforcement of the status quo (hegemonic epistemology), or shift it equitably. We will offer discussion on a variety of decolonizing methodologies (Smith, 2012) that we aim to employ as a team, such as working collaboratively with research participants to co-create questions and projected outcomes (McNicoll, 1999), member-checking, collaborative analysis of results, and highlighting the impact of our collective positionality on the work that we do.

The workshop will not position us as experts of social justice research (as the notion of expert in these endeavors can reinforce the hierarchy between researcher and researched), but instead, will solicit knowledge from the attendees. We will ask: How do your research methods align with your social justice research values? In what ways could you examine or improve upon your research methods to reflect a critical intersectional frame? Participants will leave the workshop with an increased awareness of how to do research that reflects social justice values, paired with concrete methodological ideas to run with.


McNicoll, P. 1999. Issues in teaching participatory action research. Journal of Social Work Education, 35(1): 51–62.

Smith, L. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies : Research and indigenous peoples (2nd ed.). London: Zed Books.

Affolter, E. A., & Litzler, E., & Margherio, C., & Knaphus-Soran, E. (2019, April), Aligning Your Research Methods with Your Social Justice Values Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--31741

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