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UNIT 1 - A Research Note

UNIT AGENDA

In this unit you will:


find out why a research report is relevant for you as a future
specialist;
learn what is the function and structure of a research report;
practice:
- identifying structure and content understanding
- identifying and using passive structures in academic texts

GENDER PERCEPTIONS OF SCHOOL SUBJECTS


AMONG 1011 YEAROLDS
BY JOHN ARCHER AND MARGARET MACRAE
(Department of Psychology, Lancashire polytechnic)
SUMMARY. Sixty children, aged 1112 years, rated 17 school subjects along seven 7-point dimensions including
masculine-feminine. Physics, CDT, and information technology were rated as significantly masculine whereas typing,
home economics, PSE and RE were rated as significantly feminine. In contrast to previous studies, chemistry,
mathematics, biology and languages were rated as neither masculine nor feminine. Stepwise regression using the mean
ratings for each school subject were calculated for boys and girls separately: for boys, interesting-boring predicted a
large proportion of the variance on masculine-feminine; for girls, difficult-easy predicted a considerable proportion
of the variance, as it did for the combined sample. These findings were related to observations of the social worlds of
boys and girls.

INTRODUCTION
1
SCHOOL pupils and college students generally distinguish between masculine and feminine subjects when
asked to rate academic and practical disciplines along a dimension ranging from masculine to neutral to feminine.
Wood work and metal work are rated as highly masculine, followed by the physical sciences and mathematics:
cookery and typing are rated as highly feminine, followed by modern languages, biology and psychology
(Weinreich-Haste, 1979, 1981; Archer and Freedman, 1989).
2
Only one of these ratingscale studies (Weinreich-Haste, 1982) involved secondary school age pupils. A
decade has passed since it was carried out, and during this time there have been strong directions from the UK
central government to encourage girls to enter scientific and technological training (e.g., Department of education
and Science, 1980), as well as a number of specific initiatives, such as Women Into Science and Engineering
(WISE), the Nuffied Science Project, the technical and Vocational Educational initiative (TVEI), and Girls Into
Science and Technology (GIST: Kelly et al., 1987). Computers have entered the classroom, and there have been a
number of curricular innovations, such as CDT (craft, design and technology) emerging as a compulsory subject for
both sexes. For this reason, it was decided to carry out a study similar to that of Weinreich-Haste (1981) on a sample
of young secondary school pupils in the UK, using a range of subjects which are now on the comprehensive school
curriculum.
METHODS
3
First year pupils were asked to rate each of 17 subjects on a semantic differential, which consisted of a
series of seven-point scales (4 being neutral point), containing masculine-feminine and other descriptive dimensions,
chosen from those used by Weinreich-Haste (1981) as representing ones to children of this age. Masculine-feminine
ratings for each discipline were tested statistically to determine whether they were significantly different from
neutral (Walker et al., 1986; Archer and Freedman, 1989), and their relationship to other dimensions were

investigated separately for boys and girls (since other studies have found a different pattern of intercorrelations
between questionnaire measures for males and females: Archer, 1989a; Granleese et al., 1988).
4

Respondents
The respondents were 30 male and 30 female pupils, aged 11-12 years, from the four first year classes of a
comprehensive school in a suburban area North-west Lancashire. Streaming was not used at this age but pupils were
placed into sets for English and mathematics. The headteacher chose the respondents to ensure a mixture of abilities.
5

Procedure
Prior to the main study, a small number of pupils were asked about their understanding of the school
subjects, and of the rating scales.Each pupil was asked to read the instructions and indicate if they did not
understand them. The researcher (MM) completed a sample as a demonstration. Respondents were given 30-40
minutes to complete the ratings of the school subjects along the following dimensions: masculine-feminine,
difficult-easy, interesting-bring, useless-useful, simple-complicated, about people-about things, and involves
feeling-involves thought. In each case, there were seven points, the midpoint being neither one nor the other, and
those on each side slightly, quite and extremely.
6
All 17 disciplines (Table 1) were part of the curriculum, except for German and typing, which were options
in the third year. New subjects which may be unfamiliar to many readers are PSE (Personal and Social Education),
which involves social studies including some social psychology; IT (Information Technology) which includes, in
addition to computer work, survey design, and the use of robots in industry; and CDT (Craft, Design and
Technology), involving elements of woodwork, metalwork, creative design and practical physics. All these are
assessed by projects.
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Design and data analysis


For each school subject, the scores were tested for a significant departure from the midpoint on the
masculine-feminine dimension, using a one sample t-test. The boys and girls scores were compared for each
subject. Intercorrelations between the seven dimensions were calculated from the mean ratings for each school
subject, separately for boys and girls and for the whole sample: using the means enabled the variation between
disciplines to be investigated without it being confounded by inter-individual variation (Archer and Freedman,
1989). Stepwise regression, using masculine-feminine as the criterion and the other dimensions as predictors, were
carried out on the mean scores, again for each sex and for the combined samples.
RESULTS
Gender connotations
Table 1 shows the mean ratings of the 60 respondents for the 17 school subjects along the masculinefeminine dimension, together with whether they differ from neutral. Using Bonferronis correction (Rosenthal and
Rubin, 1983) for Type 1 errors, i.e., P= 0.003 (0.05/17) as the significance level, CDT, IT and physics were
significantly different from neutral in the masculine direction, and PSE, RE, typing and home economics
significantly different in the feminine direction. The remaining 10 subjects were not significantly different from
neutral. Even with a significance level of 0.05, biology, history, art, mathematics, English, German and French
would have remained non-significant.
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TABLE I
MEAN MASCULINE-FEMININE RATINGS OF SCHOOL SUBJECTS FOR ALL 60 RESPONDANTS
School subject
CDT
IT
Physics
Chemistry
Geography
Biology
History
Art
Maths
English
German
French
Music
PSE
RE
Typing

Mean rating
2.77
3.38
3.62
3.67
3.72
3.83
3.85
3.93
3.95
3.98
4.17
4.20
4.28
4.32
4.43
5.05

Difference from
neutral (t value)
-7.54
-4.26
-3.36
-2.82
-2.43
-1.56
-1.59
-0.61
-0.69
-0.44
1.65
1.80
2.97
3.38
3.26
6.41

Significance level
<0.0001
<0.0001
0.0014
0.0065
0.018
0.12
0.12
0.54
0.50
0.66
0.11
0.077
0.0043
0.0013
0.0019
<0.0001

Percentage of
neutral responses*
33 (12)
50
77 (30)
62
72
85 (70)
73
80
87 (72)
92 (80)
82 (70)
83 (68)
83
80 (64)
72
33

Home economics

5.12

7.24

<0.0001

32

*Figures in brackets show comparable percentages calculated from the data of Archer and Freedman (1989). In the
case of PSE, the combined mean for sociology (62 %) and psychology (65 %) is shown, and for CDT the percentage
for engineering is given.
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We also calculated the numbers of respondents who rated each subject as neutral (i.e., 4), to provide an
indication of how many regarded each subject as not being gender stereotyped. The results are shown as percentages
in the right hand column of Table 1 (together with, in some cases, comparable percentages from the earlier study of
college students by Archer and Freedman). Except for CDT, IT, typing and home economics, over 60 per cent of
the sample rated each subject as neutral. The values were all substantially higher then those from the earlier study.
Therefore, although there was a significant difference in the masculine or feminine direction for physics, PSE and
RE, this was brought about by a consistent rating in one direction by a minority of the sample: the majority did not
rate these subjects as either masculine or feminine.
10

Sex differences
There were no significant differences between boys and girls masculine-feminine ratings for any of the
school subjects (two-sample-tests, using Bonferronis correction); there were no sex differences in the numbers of
subjects rated as neutral (means: boys, 11.33; girls, 12.13; t = 0.08, 29 df, NS).
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Intercorrelations between mean ratings


Table 2 shows the intercorrelations between the seven dimensions using the mean scores of the 17 school
subjects, for the girls and boys separately. For girls, masculine-feminine was highly correlated with difficult-easy
(masculine related to difficult) and complicated-simple (masculine related to complicated), these two dimensions
being highly correlated with each other (difficult related to complicated). For boys, masculine-feminine was
highly correlated with interesting-boring (masculine related to interesting) and about people-about things
(feminine related to about people), these dimensions being highly correlated with each other (interesting related to
about things, and boring to about people).
TABLE II
INTERCORRELATIONS BETWEEN THE SEVEN DIMENSIONS FOR MEAN RATINGS BY FEMALE AND
MALE RESPONDENTS ON EACH OF THE 17 SCHOOL SUBJECTS
MF
Masculine-feminine (MF)
Difficult-easy (DE)
Interesting-boring (IB)
Useful-useless (UU)
Complicated-simple (CS)
About people- about things (PT)
Involves feeling-involves thought (FT)

x
0.394
0.865**
0.558
0.370
-0.629*
-0.455

DE
0.746**
x
0.473
0.428
0.963**
-0.380
-0.460

IB
0.055
0.395
x
0.785**
0.453
-0.830**
-0.614*

UU
-0.250
-0.032
0.541
x
0.342
-0.619*
-0.749**

CS
0.621*
0.952**
0.448
0.050
x
-0.410
-0.432

PT
-0.173
-0.399
-0.411
-0.216
-0.492
x
0.472

FT
-0.404
-0.632*
-0.648*
-0.483
-0.650*
0.586
x

Female ratings above the diagonal, male ratings below


*P<0.01; **<0.001
For the whole sample, masculine-feminine showed the highest correlations with difficult-easy (masculine related
to difficult: r = 0.613; P < 0.01), and with interesting-boring (masculine related to interesting: r = o.597; P value
approximately 0.01).
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Regression analyses
Stepwise regression of the mean masculine-feminine scores on the means of the other six dimensions
revealed that only difficult-easy was a significant predictor for girls (partial r = 0.75; entry F = 18,75; P < 0.001),
and for the combined sample difficult-easy was the only one significant predictor (partial r = 0.613; entry F =
9.06; P < 0.001).
DISCUSSION
13
The present results showed less pronounces gender stereotyping of school subjects than in previous studies.
Using the same method as employed here, Archer and Freedman (1989) found that GCE A-level students aged 16 to
20 years rated nine out of 10 subjects as significantly masculine or feminine. Subjects which were rated as neutral in
the present study included English, French, and biology, which were rated as feminine in Archer and Freedmans
study, and mathematics, which was rated as masculine. Only three subjects, CDT, IT and physics, were rated as
significantly masculine in the present study, and four, PSE, RE, typing and home economics as significantly
feminine.
14
If we compare the present results with those of Weinreich-Haste (1981), who studied children of a
comparable age about 10 years ago, there are both similarities and differences. There is agreement that home

economics and typing are the most feminine subjects, and that physics is masculine, but several subjects rated as
masculine or feminine in the early study were neutral in the present one. This finding, together with the numbers
choosing the neutral point (Table 1), suggests a lower level of gender stereotyping than that expected from past
rating-scale studies, and also from studies enquiring about boys and girls subject preferences (Ormerod, 1981;
Davies and Fossey, 1985; Pritchard, 1987).
15
Evidence of a lack of stereotyping was found not only for chemistry and maths, which have been the focus
of specific initiatives and public debate, but also for subjects which have not, for example biology and French,
which were previously rated as feminine. We also found that some scientific and technological subjects physics,
CTD and IT were still rated as masculine. Clearly, these results cannot be attributed to specific changes in gender
attitudes towards scientific and technological subjects.
16
The broad finding of a lower degree of stereotyping is consistent with the results of an interview study
carried out in a different area of the North-west of England at around the same time (Archer and McDonald, in
press). Girls aged 10 to 15 years were asked about their own and other girls likes and dislikes, and option choices.
Their answers showed a lack of stereotyping in their own preferences: masculine subjects such as maths, science
and PE, were popular, and feminine subjects such as home economics were mentioned infrequently. Perceptions
of other girls likes and dislikes showed a moderate degree of stereotyping, but included some masculine subjects
such as maths and PE.
17
The lack of stereotyping of maths, which was notable in the present study, has also been found in two
others. In a large-scale study carried out in the Midlands and North-west of England, Taylor and Mardle (1986)
found that a high proportion of 11- to 18-year-olds rejected the statement that Mathematics is more a boys than a
girls subject. In a US study asking a similar question to elementary and secondary school children, maths was
rated as neutral by the girls and slightly more appropriate for boys by the boys (Wilder et al., 1985).
18
Of the three subjects rated as masculine in the present study, physics has consistently been rated as such in
previous studies, and so have subjects forming the basis of CDT, such as technical drawing and engineering
(Weinreich-Haste, 1979; Davies and Fossey, 1985). Information technology is fairly new in schools, but a US
rating-scale study (Wilder et al., 1985) found that computer use was rated as slightly more appropriate for boys than
for girls at school (but not college) ages.
19
The four subjects rated as feminine were the two feminine practical subjects (typing and home
economics), RE and PSE. In a large-scale study of boys and girls subject preferences, Ormerod (1981) found that
RE had the highest ratio of girls to boys preferences of the 13 subjects sampled. Entry and pass rates in GCE Olevel examinations also showed a high proportion of girls (Murphey, 1979); Omerod, 1981). PSE involves sociology
and psychology, both of which were rated as feminine by college students in previous studies (Weinreich- Haste,
1979); Archer and Freedman, 1989).
CONCLUSIONS
20
The results of the regression analyses of masculine-feminine on the other dimensions indicated that boys
viewed masculine subjects as interesting and feminine ones as boring. This is consistent with findings that most
boys tend to show little interest in girls activities, those that do so being of low status and rejected by their male
peers (Thorne, 1986). In contrast, girls sought access to boys groups but were generally excluded unless they
possessed specific skills valued by the masculine subculture, such as sporting ability. These findings can be viewed
as a consequence of the greater power with which the masculine sphere of interest is endowed (Archer, 1989b).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. We thank the headteacher, staff and pupils of Priory High Comprehensive
School for their co-operation and help with this research.
REFERENCES
Archer, J. (1981a). The relationship between gender-role measures: a review. Br. J. soc. Psychol., 28, 173184.
Weinreich-Haste, H. (1981). The image of science. In Kelly, A. (Ed.), The Missing Half: Girls and Science
Education. Manchester University Press.

APPROACHING THE TEXT

Skim the first page to find the following information:


1. Author's name _________________________________________
2.

Author's academic position and the academic institution in which


he works _____________________________________________

3.

What were the findings of the study related to?


_____________________________________________________

In a research report of an academic nature, the summary (or abstract)


is likely to contain not only the above information, but also the key
points of the research itself. It is thus useful to read the abstract
carefully before starting on the main body of the report. As has been
noted in Unit Two, research reports can usually be divided up into the
sections listed in Worksheet 1 below. Where the data has been
obtained by field research, as in this case, the section subjects may also
be found.

WORKSHEET 1

Identifying the main points of the research


The following is a list of sections which are usually found in a research report.
Check to see if they are contained in the study and write the information given (in
note form) in the space provided.

Now complete the final column by indicating the paragraphs in the text where
information, or further information can be found.
Information given

General
Assumptions
(including
previous work on
the subject)
Purpose
Subjects
Procedure
Results

Discussion

Conclusion

Pars. in text

INTENSIVE READING
WORKSHEET 2

Annotating bibliographical references


The purpose of any research is often closely linked to previous work in
the field and recent developments in society that determine the need for
further research. This is often summarized in the introduction to the
research report.
Read the introduction of the report and fill in the following chart.

Previous Work

Author(s) / Institutions

Recent
social
developments/
background

Date

Comments

ratung-scale
studies
encouraging
girls to enter
scientific
and
technological
training
CDT
(craft,
design
and
technology)

WORKSHEET 3

Information extraction
Read the section on Methods and fill in the following table on procedure,
making careful reference to the text.

Characteristics of respondents
Dimensions of school subjects rating
Main groups of disciplines
Data analysis (the role of mean rating)

1.

What was the reason


a) for using a seven point scale? _______________________________
___________________________________________________________________
b) for using a one-sample t-test? ____________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

2. How were the intercorrelations calculated and what did they facilitate?__________________
_____________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________

WORKSHEET 4

Checking understanding
Read the Results section of the research and Table 1, decide whether the
following statements are true or false. Underline the parts of the text which
give you the answer.
1.
2.
3.

PSE, Re, typing and home economics were perceived as substantially


different from neutral in the masculine direction.
Over 60% of the sample indicated most school subjects as neutral.
There were some significant differences between masculine-feminine
ratings on the part of boys and girls.

Read the Conclusions section and answer the following questions:


1. Does the study provide evidence as to the boys' tendency to be less
interested in girls' activities? If so, why?___________________________
_______________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________
2. What is the general condition of girls' getting accepted in boys' groups?
_______________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________
3. What do the findings of the study indicate?_________________________
_______________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________

LANGUAGE WORK
WORKSHEET 5

Paragraph
Summary

Lexis common to academic prose


Read the text rapidly to find the words for which the definitions are given
below. The words appear in the text in the same order as the definitions.
Use your dictionary to check meaning and write the immediate context of
the word in the respective column.

Definition
To esteem, consider
(passive, past tense)

Word
or

account

Summary
A branch of knowledge as a course of
study
2

to include as a necessary circumstance,


condition, or consequence; imply (past
tense)
To conduct a research (passive, past
tense)
To make a careful study of something
(past tense)
The person who undertakes a study to
discover new facts or information
A group of people or things
representing a larger group
A rate or proportion per hundred (pl.)

Important, having a special meaning

20

Results of research

2
3
5
5

Immediate context

WORKSHEET 6

Reutilization of lexis common to academic prose


Complete the summary of the imaginary research report below. Use some
of the words defined in Worksheet 5 (some may be used more than once).
Be sure to read through the incomplete report before beginning.

The accuracy of data regarding the ____________ of foreign workers employed illegally in Italy is not
always dependable. In order to ____________ this situation, a _______________ project was conducted
using a _____________ of foreign workers from a variety of sectors, in twelve Italian cities.
The participants were interviewed using a __________ interviewing technique which has recently proved
very effective. The _____________ produced some _____________ results. For example, foreign workers
are more likely to be given work illegally in the building and catering sectors, in agriculture and as
domestic help, while this is less likely to occur other sectors.
Although the ___________ of this study cannot be considered unequivocal, it is certainly ____________
that in virtually all cities ____________ , the same industries abused foreign workers to the same extent,
throughout Italy.