GEND 4205 Webnotes

Scroll down for more webnotes for the Honours Seminar.

January 23 2017


This paper aims to fill a void in existing literature regarding critical race theory and Indigenous peoples in America. Currently critical race theory is most frequently used in addressing intersecting issues of race, power, and law experienced by Black communities. This paper will look at how America’s Indigenous people have been exposed to state violence by the American Government that is a product of racial biases embedded in societal institutions. This thesis will examine the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and make the case that the American Government committed state violence against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe through environmental racism and human rights violations.

This thesis will support the argument that planning to run the pipeline through Standing Rock constitutes as environmental racism as the developers deliberately opted to place the Sioux tribe’s water supply at risk in order to protect the water supply of residents in Bismarck. Critical race theory twill be utilized in order to articulate how racism is embedded in society’s institutions, and how the State acts on behalf of White Americans, creating and perpetuating racial biases in order to maintain their superiority and execute their racialized agenda. This paper will perform a discourse analysis and will review existing literature regarding acts of state violence committed against America’s Indigenous peoples. Media sources such as video footage, newspaper articles, as well as first-hand accounts from those who were on the ground protesting the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline will be examined and the information gather will be applied to concepts of human rights. The application will demonstrate that the State violated the human rights of the protestors by forcefully intervening in their peaceful protests. Ultimately the thesis will conclude by demonstrating how institutionalized relations of race resulted in the American Government executing state violence against Standing Rock’s Sioux Tribe in the form of environmental racism and human rights violations, in an attempt to further it’s own agenda that aims to protect and advance the livelihood of corporations and White Americans.

Keywords: Environmental racism, critical race theory, Indigenous peoples, state violence, human rights, Dakota Access Pipeline


Over the course of two years, a new word has erupted in social media outlets and blogs, articles, and ads. “Adulting” or to “adult” is a verb used to highlight the normalized and formerly invisible practices that accompany adulthood. While this language is used to accentuate the achievements one fulfills when they successfully “adult”, it is also being used comically in order to make light of a troubling reality that haunts today’s youth. Many scholarly works stemming from multiple disciplines (such as psychology, sociology, and youth studies) refer to this phenomenon as “emerging”, “delayed” or “arrested” adulthood, whereby young people in the world’s most industrial, capitalist societies are brought to a halt when they fail to live up to the normative standards of adulthood that preceded their generation. Using intersectionality, postmodernism, and political economy perspectives, I seek to study this phenomenon with the knowledge that youth is a social category that is shaped in and through the material and ideological conditions of a given time and place. Previous work in this area has primarily taken a ‘youth as transition’ approach, which essentially locates youth along a normative scale of development that is guided by biological checkpoints. While this interpretation does important work for the study of human development, it ultimately neglects any examination of the material and structural conditions through which youth are conceptualized and shaped, as well as the diversity of human beings. This paper seeks to explore and interrogate the uncharted territory of adulthood as it relates to the lives of “emerging” or “arrested” adults. Using a discourse analysis, I examine the texts that specifically identify the term “adulting” whether it is in memes, articles, blogs, quizzes, or ads. I will argue that “adulting” as a discourse serves to sustain a normative adult by individualizing structural issues that many young people, especially marginalized groups, find themselves in today. 

January 9 2017

Guests: Leslie Thielen-Wilson and Jen Gordon

Absent with regrets: Sal Renshaw (sabbatical), Erin Dokis (sent feedback), Rosemary Nagy (offered to skype in, but I declined) and Stacey Mayhall (who had a long day as ED of the AIDS Committee

Jen and I have an IWW announcement.

I will take these abstracts down tomorrow.

I will mark the proposals this week and set up one-on-one meetings for some of you for next week’s class.

In two weeks, we begin the process of weekly production and peer-editing.


November 7 2016
“Typical Responses to Sexting”

Social constructions of adolescence

Dominant: 1904 — “storm and stress” – risk taking, lack of judgment and moodiness

Social Construction Approach: Epstein asserts that teens’ cognitive abilities are fully developed at 14 and–on average–superior in “reasoning ability, intelligence, and memory functions” (53) in relation to other age groups. He sees adolescence “as an unnecessary stage of life that unfairly labels an entire group of people as incompetent” (53).

New media and the brain

Is the new media brain “better”? What is meant by better?
Or “worse”? What is meant by worse?

What is meant by “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”?

What critiques are levelled against these divisions?
How do these generational divisions obscure social inequalities?

Especially useful for those of you (possibly) writing in this area: “Biological narratives put adolescents in a strange position; they are personally not responsible for their misbehaviours, but neither is the person who harasses or assaults them” (58).

“The article concludes with a warning that parents should watch their kids, not an admonishment to adult men to refrain from assaulting teenage girls” (58). What do you think about these observations? What might such an admonishment look like?

Page 61: “boys are rarely described as humiliated by sexting” – What do you think about this claim? If you agree, why do you think this is the case? If you disagree, please explain.

Raging hormones: “Experts” quoted in the media “blame” sexting on girls’ raging hormones and defend girls on this basis, saying that they can’t control themselves. Hasinoff presents another option in which “consensually sexting girls deserve sympathy from the justice system because they are entitled to sexual expression, desire, and pleasure” (63). Which version do you favour and why?

In focusing on teen brains, hormones and peer pressure as allegedly leading to sexting, “the blame for sexual violence is perversely shifted away from privacy violators and onto their victims” (70).

Self-esteem advice and blame

Discourse of “female empowerment:” Sexting is “not what we meant when we talked about female empowerment” (71).
What is the proposed solution to teen sexting in the empowerment discourse?
Once again, who is the target of this anti-sexting “solution”?

“Programs like Girl Power! offer individualized self-help solutions to problems—like drug use and, in the case of online safety PSAs, sexual harassment—which have significant social, structural, and systemic components. Such campaigns address drug addicts and sexual harassment victims with the cheerful message that they have the power to solve their own problems by simply raising their self-esteem and thus reducing their desire to engage in risky behaviours” (74). What role, if any, do you think self-esteem plays in drug use and online safety? What gets overlooked when we only focus on self-esteem?

According to Hasinoff, why is this “self esteem” approach considered a “post-feminist” rhetoric?

“Self-esteem programs often view a person’s feelings of disempowerment, rather than her actual disempowerment, as the main problem and point of intervention” (76). What might be the problem with focussing on feelings of disempowerment while overlooking actual disempowerment?

“Following Ehrenreich’s (2009) work on the delusions of positive thinking, it is worth considering whether well-meaning and enthusiastic individuals who demand that girls feel good about themselves and positive about their futures are perhaps the ones being irrational” (76). What do you think about this suggestion?

“Though feminists recognized decades ago that sexual violence and harassment are social and political problems, many national PSAs that address online sexual safety position girls as personally responsible for being sexually harassed” (77).

The following quotation offers a useful analytic tool to those of you evaluating “rape-prevention education programs and campaigns:” “Despite the good intentions to help prevent girls from being exploited, online safety advice tends to reproduce the sexual harassment as natural and inevitable and that only girls—not the men who victimize them—need to modify their behaviour. These ideas reflect a long-standing problem in many mainstream rape-prevention education programs and campaigns, which position women simultaneously as victims and as responsible for preventing rape (R. Hall, 2004; Projansky, 2001)” (80).

“In the three campaigns discussed in this section, girls’ agency is limited to the power they have to self-censor, to restrict their online social interactions, and to be extremely cautious about the personal information they post online” (80). These may be important tips, but what kind of information and strategies might be useful to complement them?

What do you think about the campaign that uses the “bulletin board” analogy?

What do you think about the PSA where Sarah is getting increasingly sexualized attention from a coach, theatre usher and a restaurant employee? What might an alternate version of this ad look like if it addressed the men’s behaviour and Sarah’s freedom of expression? 

“Had this nationally broadcast PSA depicted a young woman being harassed in public for wearing a short skirt and offered the advice to ‘Think before you get dressed,’ feminists would have surely responded with outrage” (85). What do you think about Hasinoff’s claim? What is the perceived difference here in terms of constructions of young women’s culpability if they are sexually harassed because of what they wear versus what they post online? Where else might a PSA assign responsibility? 

Some questions to ask ourselves about sexting campaigns:
Are adolescent girls positioned as sexual objects or sexual subjects?
According to the campaign, why do girls sext?
Is there room in the campaign for young women to be sexually active and have high self-esteem?
Who is held responsible for a sext that crosses the line from private to public?
Does the campaign address sexism or cultures of sexual violence?
Does it challenge gender norms?
Does the campaign seek to change the individual and / or the broader community context?

Do you agree that “raising one’s self-esteem and resisting sexual pressure … appear to be uniquely feminine pursuits” (88-89)? Discuss. Why or why not?

What are your thoughts on Hasinoff’s alternate campaign for young heterosexual men? “You got a sext? Congrats! Want another? Respect her privacy.”

In class: More discussion of how your research ideas are taking shape. It is time to start narrowing down your ideas.

October 31 2016
Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent

Hasinoff, A.A. (2015). Introduction. In Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent (pp.1-22). Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Hasinoff, A.A. (2015). The criminalization consensus and the right to sext. In Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent (pp. 25-48). Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Hasinoff, A.A. (2015). Discourse analysis: How to find common sense. In Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent (pp. 164-167). Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Look at:

Guest Speaker over Skype: Amy Hasinoff from 1:00-2:00. Please come prepared to ask questions. 

Your thoughts on the readings?

What does it mean to consider agency and consent as “relative, constrained and contextual”? 

When a judge says, “It seems like the child here [is] … the victim, the perpetrator and the accomplice. I mean, does that make any sense? How does that make sense?” (pp 6-7), what are they referring to?

What do you think about this application of the child pornography law?

What are some other points that Hasinoff makes about sexting?

Hasinoff says that sexting is often popularly characterized as something “deviant” teens do. What does she say about this characterization?

She argues that “granting young people the right to consensually see, create, and distribute sexual media may be the most effective way to protect them from harm” (26). What do you think about this? What concerns do you anticipate might be expressed in relation to such a view?

In relation to sexting, what kinds of actions does Hasinoff take issue with?

She also takes issue with the tendency to panic “about deviant girls, predators, and pornographers” because this obfuscates systemic and cultural issues relating to sexual violence.
How might the panic over “deviant girls” be an example of victim-blaming?
How might a focus on predators and pornographers overlook how widespread sexual violence is in “everyday life and intimate relationships” (9)?

She quotes, Spade (2012), “If we deal with the complexity of how common violence is, and let go of a system built on a fantasy of monstrous strangers, we might actually begin to focus on how to prevent violence and heal from it” (9). What do you think about this claim?

How do race, class and gender figure into her arguments about the criminalization of sexting?

What do you think of her arguments?

What kinds of texts does Hasinoff study?

“Understanding the common sense assumptions that adhere to any social issue is a prerequisite for changing how we think of it” (16). What do you think she means by this? What common sense ideas about sexting have you heard? In this logic, what is “wrong” about teens sexting?

What common sense assumptions about sexting do you hold? As a social justice scholar, what kinds of common sense assumptions might you like to challenge and change?

Discourse analysis: In the Appendix on discourse analysis, Hasinoff gives some very helpful information on how to create and understand discourse analysis, including taking a “long soak” in the materials. She also clarifies that common sense is not a matter of how often something is spoken but how it is spokenShe looks at “how a statement is expressed as factual, true, objective, and obvious” (165). Common sense “consists of taken-for-granted ideas that seem natural, inevitable, and normal” (167).

Do you think that sexting is a “speech act” or a “sex act”? Or both? 

What do you think of Hasinoff’s compromise to regulate sexting as sex is regulated with age categories?

What do you think about decriminalizing consensual sexting, but criminalizing privacy violators?

What are your thoughts on the following claims? “Though it may sound counterintuitive, affirming teens’ right to sext helps protect them from privacy violations. The problem with viewing sexting as simply deviant and criminal for everyone involved is that it makes the distribution of private images seem like a normal and inevitable part of sexting” (41).

Your thoughts on this video?

And these?

According to Hasinoff and others what are some “unsettling consequences” of decriminalizing consensual teen sexting as long as the acts depicted are legal” (45)?

In class: Discussion of how your research ideas are taking shape. Any ideas yet?

*Please attend and promote the public talk by Ivan Coyote on Wednesday evening, October 26, 2016 in the Nipissing University Theatre. Who is Ivan Coyote? See

October 17 2016
Critical Race / Socio-legal Studies

Thielen-Wilson, L. (2014). Troubling the Path to Decolonization: Indian Residential School Case Law, Genocide, and Settler Illegitimacy. Canadian Journal of Law and Society/Revue Canadienne Droit et Société29(02), 181-197. Available under e-journals through the Nipissing University Library.

Skim: “Theoretical framework and method of analysis” (section 3.3 from dissertation). This reading is in the coursepack available at Print Plus.

Guest speaker: Dr. Leslie Thielen-Wilson

Resources that Leslie has provided:

The following pdf is a style guide that summarizes the basics of the McGill legal style manual regarding how to cite legal cases and government legislation (the McGill standard is used in court cases and legal journals). It demonstrates how to read a citation as well, so very helpful: ojen-citation-guide_ev4

This pdf is from the Canadian Government’s justice site. It’s a summary of how the Canadian court system works, the different kinds of law in Canada, etc. It’s useful for students who don’t know a lot about our justice system. It should be read by students who are embarking on critique of legal cases for the first time: canadajusticesystem

182 — “loss of culture” not actionable in Canadian courts

183 — “historical sexual assault”

183 – “Declaring the connection between historic sexual abuse and cultural loss as ‘strained at best,’ courts sever sexual abuse from collective crimes such as genocide, and sever both sexual abuse and genocide from issues of land.”

185 – “As John Borrows and others argue, the violence of the assertion of sovereignty is intimately tied to the violence of an expanding settler occupation, the mere fact of which tarnishes (renders coercive) the context in which treaties were and are made.”

185 – “The emphasis on cultural loss in IRS litigation thereby threatens to reveal not only past human rights violations, but the ongoing illegitimacy of settler sovereignty and occupation. In settler colonial contexts, the settler collective typically responds with violence when its illegitimacy is rendered visible. I argue that, in IRS case law, this violence consists of the relentless dehumanization of the Indigenous collective as property. I contend that the settler collective reasserts sovereignty through this dehumanization of the Indigenous collective, and that law operates as steward of settler sovereignty even in IRS litigation.”

188 – “Thus, Brenner J’s reasons indirectly acknowledge the link between sexual abuse (wrongful acts) and nation building (Canada’s business), and they erect a racializing economic framework for IRS case law (as all tort law) to which relations of property (and land) are integral. This framing allows for both the acknowledgement of the IRS system as a colonizing mechanism and the denial of responsibility for the dishonourable behaviour associated with it.”

Leslie articulates the “obverse,” as Heron states—that which is implied but not stated: “The plaintiffs as a collective are thereby excluded from the category of fully rational humans and are deemed incapable of asserting that their bodily integrity was unjustly violated. In contrast, the teachers, nurses, and police who testify against the plaintiffs—and even those who are long dead but presumably were respectable by virtue of their employment as teachers, nurses, or police—are constructed as rational adults and caring pseudo-parents.”


190 – “This eviction occurs through the very reasoning of Justice Brenner and mirrors the historical and contemporary exclusion of Indigenous people from owning private property in land under the Indian Act. The two evictions—symbolic and material—fit hand in glove. The settler ‘establishes’ that the collective memory of Indigenous people is not credible with regard to what was done to their own individual bodies. The settler presumes that the collective memory of Indigenous people is even less reliable with regard to experiences (such as the signing of treaties or land and resource agreements) passed down to them through generations.”

190-191 – “Acknowledgement of the colonial context of the IRS system, made possible by the legal framing of this system as an ‘economic enterprise’ and the law’s emphasis on ‘historic sexual abuse’ as the only actionable tort, allows the defendant Canada to simultaneously acknowledge the fact of colonization and genocide, evade responsibility for both colonization and genocide, and reassert settler sovereignty through the dehumanization of the Indigenous survivors and their communities.”

192 – “Here, the non-sexual violence associated with forced assimilation and genocide is explicitly acknowledged (by both Canada and the Court) as having devastating effects on the plaintiffs. As the non-sexual violence is not a legally recognized harm, Canada’s acknowledgement of it is protected by law. In this context, such an acknowledgement must have felt like yet another form of violence to the plaintiff s. How much more so, when Canada and Brenner J twist the plaintiffs’ own words in order to undermine the survivors’ claim?”

192 – “Emphasizing that the plaintiff s responded to the terror of the gauntlet with attempts at suicide and/or violence against others, Canada and the Court turn the fact of cultural genocide against the victim of genocide:”

193 – “I suggest that reducing Indigenous survivors to property becomes even more pronounced in this phase precisely because law enabled the settler to freely boast about the violence of the IRS system as a colonizing mechanism. The settler’s racial fantasy of rightful ownership of land is bolstered, despite the ever-growing recognition of its illegitimacy.”

197 – “Just as Glen Coulthard recommends that Indigenous people cultivate ‘anti-colonial agency’ by disengaging from ‘the colonial project’ and refusing to look to the settler for recognition of either humanity or sovereignty, I recommend that we, the settlers, challenge the arrogant assumption (and law) that we legitimately belong on Indigenous land, and that we rightfully have the power to grant humanity or sovereignty to anyone.”

Can you discuss the affective side of such research with us as researchers?

How has your work been received?

Those of you interested in law as a career, how do you understand an article like this? Do you imagine that you will use the law differently? Do you appreciate the law as it works?

October 3 2016
Colonial continuities and the production of bourgeois subjectivities

What is Heron’s argument?
Have you seen this narrative before? In life? In pop culture?

Heron is drawing out some of the Western discourses in circulation concerning Africa. What are some of the characteristics used to describe Africa in the West / North?

Drawing on Pieterse, does Heron say that Africans are figured as “outcasts” or competitors”?

What are the descriptions of these two stereotypes (p. 4)?

What does Heron say is obscured within these Western descriptions of Africa?

Heron writes that Canada is explicitly and implicitly described in ways that establish opposition between the country of Canada and the countries of Africa. How then is Canada figured in these descriptions?

What is obscured within these descriptions?

According to Heron, what are the roles and characteristics ascribed to the bourgeois subject who moves between these two spaces?

Machine gun preacher

The Good Lie

The Blindside:

The Help

Celebs in Africa: 

Heron writes, “In this process, the unspoken subtext is that what really counts and must be preserved are our standards, our perspectives, our national fantasies, our imaginings of the Other, and, when we do development work, our experiences there” (p. 4). What do you think that she means by this?

What do you think about this claim?

The modern bourgeois subject has “the desire for the exotic, a disdain for ‘natives,’ a search for the ‘authentic Other,’ and a need to merge with ‘native’ culture and not be seen as a visitor” (p. 3). How do you understand these desires? What do you think each one means?

What are “colonial continuities”?

In terms of colonial continuities, Heron says that there is a tendency in the West to adopt “a world view that infers relations of comparison with the Other on a global scale, comparison in which the Other always comes off as somehow lacking or not quite up to an unmarked standard” (p. 7). Can you think of any examples of what she is talking about?

See for example, By Christie Blatchford, Oct 20, 2011

What is the “colonial continuity” in these examples?

Heron goes on to write, “Operating alongside this sense of comparison and simultaneously authorized by it are a sense of entitlement and an obligation to intervene for the ‘betterment’ of the Other wherever he or she resides” (p. 7). How do you understand this? How does this relate to the bourgeois subject? How does it relate to the White, women development workers?

Africa for Norway:

According to Heron, how can Whiteness best be challenged (p. 11)? What do you think about that assertion? 

Heron sets out the terms of “‘cultural competencies’ – in other words, the knowledge, values, and sensibilities by which bourgeois subjects disciplined themselves – [that] enabled the distinction to be made between those who were ‘truly white’ and those merely ‘held to be white.’ Cultural competencies included, in addition to owning property, rootedness, an orderly family life, rationality, and self-mastery; and, from the domestic sphere, monogamy, thrift, order, accumulation, classification, quantification, and regulation. The culturally competent person also exhibited, from the early eighteenth century on, a certain sensibility termed ‘sympathy,’ which regulated passions and manifested in benevolence and acts of charity toward those less fortunate or less advanced” (p. 29). How do you understand these bourgeois “cultural competencies”? Are any of these competencies familiar to you?

As Heron explains, “the continuous affirmation of class difference” is central to the bourgeois subject (p. 29).

What role and characteristics are ascribed to the middle-class White woman who is both bourgeois subject and not fully bourgeois subject?

How does this female bourgeois subject / not bourgeois subject relate to the development worker narrative?

According to Heron, what is the standard development worker narrative (p. 21)?

How do you understand Heron’s use of the descriptors “entitlement and obligation to intervene”? What do you think she means? 

Why is Heron critical of this entitlement and “obligation”?

What do you make of the report that criticizes international student visitors to Africa for not being especially knowledgeable, skilled or familiar with language and culture?

What is “anachronistic space” (p. 31)?

As I was reading this, I was very curious to hear how you read these interview quotations. What is your response to these women? What do you think of the analysis? What do you think about Heron’s positioning of herself as part of the group, specifically her use of “we” and “us”?

Why do you think Heron puts “altruism” in quotation marks at times?

What do you make of an interview quotation such as Debbie’s on page 46?

What about Carol on page 50?

If were all to identify our own interests and investments in GESJ, do you think that our responses would reveal similar results and contradictions as these development worker narratives? 

Are the interviews taken as fact or as texts to analyze?

Post-modern analysis of interviews – interviews are not taken at face value / as Truth / they are reflections of discourse and will be critically analyzed as such (relates to methodology).

Finally, what do you think are the possibilities and limitations of transnational work?

September 19 2016

The Nipissing University Faculty Union is offering its annual Textbook Bursary. The application deadline for the fall term is November 15th, and students can receive anywhere from $50 to $100 to cover the cost of textbooks. You are required to submit receipts and here is the link to the application form:

Learning Opportunity Awards are also available to students to support projects, learning experiences, and research that is self-initiated. The learning opportunity must also be supported by a faculty member and not related to coursework / credit. The maximum award is $800 per student within an academic year. Here is a link to the application form:

Silkscreening on Friday!

2. AUTOETHNOGRAPHY (anything that we haven’t already discussed)

As Potts and Brown write, “Research can be a powerful tool for social change. It also can, and has been, just as powerful in maintaining the status quo and supporting the evolution of societies that reward some people and inhibit others. Research can be used to suppress ideas, people, and social justice just as easily – maybe even more easily – than it be used to respect, empower, and liberate. Good intentions are never enough to produce anti-oppressive processes or outcomes” (p. 260).

Nipissing University Ethics Review Board:

Effective August 31, 2012, in order to submit a protocol, you must complete the TCPS2 Online Tutorial. A Certificate of Completion must be provided with your protocol submission. Please follow the link to log on and create an account Please use your Nipissing e-mail address.


According to Brooks and Hesse-Biber, “epistemology is ‘a theory of knowledge’ that delineates a set of assumptions about the social world and who can be a knower and what can be known… The researcher makes decisions rooted in these assumptions that influences what is studied (based on what can be studied) and how the study is conducted” (p. 5).

Epistemology primarily addresses the following questions: “What is knowledge?”, “How is knowledge acquired?”, “What do people know?”, “How do we know what we know?”

Within Western conceptual frameworks who can be a knower?

Have Indigenous Peoples been considered knowledgeable or is it only the Western scientific researcher who is knowledgeable about Indigenous Peoples / “Natives”?

According to the Western archive of knowledge, what can be known? 

What do you think about this claim that “everything” can be known through the Western archive of knowledge and Western research?

What is objectivity?

How might you respond to a researcher who claims objectivity or neutrality?

Feminist research emerged in reaction to research with androcentric bias.

Do you know the difference between quantitative and qualitative research?

Quantitative research: Relating to quantity and counting and statistical analysis – “How much is happening to how many people” – these studies tend to be scientific and claim to be generalizable to a larger group

Qualitative research: Relating to quality, not quantity – not looking to prove a specific pre-determined hypothesis or theory, but rather to explore complex realities. Questions can emerge during the research process and even change the direction. Not looking to be generalizable. Studies can be small and still regarded as relevant and worthwhile. Often see such research in Women’s Studies, sociology, anthropology, geography, history and other humanities and social sciences research.

What about the difference between research methods and methodologies?

Research methods: “a method is a technique for (or way of proceeding in) gathering evidence” (Brooks & Hesse-Biber, p. 5).

Examples of research methods: interviewing, surveys, statistics, case studies, institutional studies, participant observation

Methodology: Methodology “is a theory of how research is done or should proceed” (p. 5). This is broader than research methods and related to assumptions and principles concerning how research methods should be conducted and why. For example, interviewing is a research method and questions relating to methodology would be: How should we interview – open-ended questions? Closed questions? Should the interviewer and interviewee be the same sex? The same race? Why are interviews the best of “data” collection? Are the interviews taken as fact or as texts to analyze? These questions and their answers relate to “how research is done and should proceed. These are broader rules, principles and ideas about research methods.

Brief examples of the different merits of methods in my QAF research: Surveys, interviews, focus groups


Start early, this process is time consuming and the deadlines are inflexible. The deadlines may be closer than you imagine. For example, when I applied to OISE/UT the application deadline was December 1 in order to begin school the following September. Other programs have later deadlines: Indigenous Studies at Trent, February 1. Note deadlines for funding and deadlines without funding. You want to be considered for funding.

Research schools – which program suits your interests, look at courses you would love to take and professors you would love to work with. It is not unusual to email professors that you would like to work with, outline your interests and ask if they think their department would be a good fit for you. Not all professors will write back, but some will. Also make an effort to contact students in that department to ask how they like it, keeping in mind that different people will have varying experiences of the same program. I highly recommend looking at the courses offered. Courses that interest you are probably a good indication that this is a program you should seriously consider. We have some graduate schools and their websites listed at

Order applications from all the schools that interest you. They are usually free. Note the fees, the deadlines, and the number of references and transcripts required.

Start saving your pennies because applying to grad school is not cheap. There are often costly application and transcript fees.

Apply for scholarships. Go online and look into Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) and Canada Graduate Scholarship applications.


Canada Graduate Scholarships –

Advice from Nip U:

Note the scholarship deadlines, expectations, references and transcripts required. These are very important sources of funding for Masters students. Graduate schools will want to know that you have applied for these scholarships. Please note that many grad schools offer internal scholarships or teaching assistantships if you are accepted.

Contact your references well in advance. Ask them if they will have time to write you a “good” reference letter by the application due dates, and inquire if they would like any supporting documents from you (i.e. your statement of intent; old essays; transcripts). Remember that professors consider reference letter writing to be part of their jobs. But also respect that they are extremely busy and many other students will be asking for references around the same time. I would recommend giving professors at least 4 weeks notice.

Think hard about your research interests, pick schools that you want to attend (and can afford to apply to) and start working on your applications.

 The following tips may be applied equally to grad school applications, Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) applications:

Read and follow the instructions very carefully. Pay attention to line spacing (single / double), font size and page length. Your application should be perfect. Seriously.

When filling out open-ended questions such as those describing your research interests try to be clear and concise. Vagueness is a very common problem when filling out these applications. Be specific and explain your interests as thoroughly as possible – do not take readers’ knowledge for granted. The usual advice is to “avoid jargon” and make it “intelligible to educated laypeople.”

Do not be vague, even if you are not entirely sure what you will focus on. Do the best that you can and remember that you will not be held to following your exact plan. In fact, once you are accepted to a program you can completely change your plan.

Name the sources of crucial ideas – key names should be mentioned, no long lists though.

Show that you have a good grasp of the relevant literature and point to how your research is related to current work in the field. Discuss, to the extent that you can, the theoretical and social importance of your research. Where possible, link what you are proposing to do with work you have previously done. Explain why you are the best person to do this research.

Make sure that you are proposing a research project that could be completed in the time available. Overly ambitious projects suggest that you have never been subjected to the discipline necessary in planning a contained, but still lengthy, project.

Some programs will want you to name professors you would like to work with and courses in the department you plan to take. Explain why this is the best department for your research interests and skills.

Make it sound interesting – it should jump out that your interests are unique and different from the mass of other proposals. Your research proposal should be worked on, revised and polished. If your referees and friends are willing, ask them to read it and offer suggestions. Proofread it thoroughly and be sure that there are no spelling, punctuation or grammar errors.

Brag. Do not be diffident about your strong qualities.

If you have low grades early on in your university career, some sources recommend that you acknowledge this very briefly in your Statement of Intent for grad schools: “While my early grades are low, they improved dramatically when I found the subject area that truly engages me….

Filling out these applications can be very disheartening so remember that most undergraduate students will be leaving blank any sections where you are asked to list academic publications or academic positions held.

Convince the committee reviewing your application that you have a good idea of where you are going in your scholarly career and that you know what you want to do.

An excellent proposal shows originality; is well written; is understandable; is thought-through; is “doable”; is integrated into literature and theory.

Be sure to follow up with your referees and order transcripts in plenty of time.

Some tips from Amy Hasinoff, author of Sexting Panic: