Research Portfolio Post 9: End of Term Mentor Meeting

I met Professor Lauren Carruth in her office on the 3rd of December at 10 am for 20 minutes. During this meeting, Professor Carruth and I discussed the development of my research project since the beginning of the semester and discussed potential steps forward.

My puzzle and research question have completely changed since the beginning of the semester. Despite original intentions to look into the provision of care for victims of wartime sexual assault, I am now researching female political participation in Pakistan, both as candidates and voters, and am attempting to understand why, despite receiving political enfranchisement in 1956, Pakistani women continue to have lower turnouts year after year. I am considering using a small-n case study methodology as I believe it is the best way for me to understand both the general impact of suffrage on political participation and further look at if Pakistan deviates from the general model. 

As I am not dealing with human subjects, I do not believe that I have any advance planning other than strengthening my model and research question. In order to keep myself engaged, I want to continue reading about political suffrage and its impact, as well as read more sources, not only in English, but in Urdu as well. This will allow me to access a broader range of sources and information, which will aid my research significantly.

The questions that I have moving forward, for SISU-306, are:  

  1. i) I am still conflicted about whether I want to carry out small-n; what if I get to 306 and change my mind?
  2. ii) Would it be of value for me to reach out to people who have conducted research on this topic before and speak to them in order to better understanding of how they collect their data?

Research Portfolio Post 8: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

As per Booth et al.’s formulation, I am proposing to research the political participation of women in Weimar Germany because I want to find out why, despite increased attempts at the fulfilment of democractic ideals and the increased provision of suffrage and rights to German women, the Weimar Republic was arguably a fragile and subsequently fragile state, in order to help my reader understand the extenuating factors that impacted the failure of the government and the role of women in the same.[1]

Within the context of interpretivist research, my object of inquiry or “X” is female political participation. The primary sources that I intend to use are excerpts from the Weimar constitution and the writing of Alice Rühle-Gerstel, both of which I came across through the website of Facing History.

The research question I propose is: How did the state fragility of Weimar Germany worsen and eventually lead to state failure, despite intensive efforts to promote state stability through promotion of democratic values?”

The Weimar Constitution represents my “X” value well as it showcases concerted and detailed efforts to move towards gender equality and provide for women’s participation in the political process, which, at the time, was becoming increasingly fundamental to the existence of the Weimar republic.[2] This constitution formalised equality for men and women in the eyes of the law, as well as enfranchised women above the age of 20. The main actors who are provided a platform in this source are the government at the time and, arguably, some of liberal parties who were provided a place at the table. This connects directly to my research as it plays into the prevalent and hegemonic discourse that the Weimar government was an attempt to achieve Germany’s shift from an absolutist monarchy to a progressive democracy – leading to a short period of relative democractic stability & a golden era of liberalisation in the country.

The other source I intend to use is excerpts from the writings of Alice Rühle-Gerstel, a German who wrote about the social implications of the Weimar government and its gender-related reforms.[3] The representations of my “X” value are also present as the source relates to the ideas put forward by the constitution, with more liberal policies with regard to women and more democratic politics but unlike the constitution, it provides a different, more societal and personal experience. The actors involved were the “new” women of Germany, as Rühle-Gerstel was psychologist who focused on the 1920s social revolution that took place in Weimar but was also one of these women and experienced these changes firsthand. The source connects to my research as it creates the idea of more liberalisation and democratisation in Germany, which is often linked to decreased fragility, and allows us to look deeper into the experiences of a group that was previously disenfranchised and then increasingly allowed to participate in political processes.

[1] Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald, The Craft of Research (4th ed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016, 54.

[2] “Excerpts From The Weimar Constitution”. Facing History And Ourselves, Last modified 2019.

[3] “Women In The Weimar Republic”. Facing History And Ourselves, Last modified 2019.

Research Portfolio Post 7: Qualitative Data Sources

The dependent variable (DV) that I intend to use is state fragility. As per the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), state fragility can be understood as “the combination of exposure to risk and insufficient coping capacity of the state, system and/or communities to manage, absorb or mitigate those risks.”[1]

State fragility is measured by the OECD as well in an annual report and index entitled the “Fragile States Index” which measures the capacity of countries to protect against fragility through a variety of indicators like economic development.[2]However, it can be argued that consistently high ratings on the state fragility index, or high fragility, can also be the product of socio-political factors. As I have discussed previously, factors such as female political empowerment also play a significant role in the ability of states to recover from fragile conditions, especially those in post-conflict periods.

Due to this, the data source that I believe will be useful in investigating state fragility is a report produced by the CIA’s Political Instability (State Failure) Task Force.[3]The State Failure Task Force was set up by the Central Intelligence Agency to look at state fragility or, in some cases, even failure through the lens of socio-economic and political indicators, and attempt to ascertain patterns regarding the same.[4]

The report puts forward its own variables like rates of literacy, particularly adult female literacy, and population vulnerability, which I will be basing the operationalisation of my dependent variable on.[5]By doing so, I believe that it will allow my DV to have a more well-rounded foundation for analysis. I intend to measure my DV through the range of values provided by the FSI and place them into “high”, “moderate” or “low” fragility levels, to make for more accurate analysis or comparison. [6]

While I have not narrowed down on what specific cases I would like to investigate, I intend to look at the variation in levels of state fragility across countries with similar backgrounds in conflict.

[1]“Poverty, instability and violence in fragile states,” Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, accessed October 26, 2019,

[2]“Fragile States Index 2019”, Fund for Peace, October 18, 2019.

[3]Central Intelligence Agency. 1999. State Failure Task Force Report: Phase III Findings (1999). (Accessed October 26, 2019)



[6]“Fragile States Index 2019”, Fund for Peace, October 18, 2019.

Research Portfolio Post 6: Quantitative Data Sources

As per Booth et al.’s formulation, I am proposing to research the post-conflict recovery process for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence because I want to find out why, despite many attempts across the world and the use of international legislation, many people do not receive the aid they need to recover, in order to help my reader understand the obstacles that survivors face and to adequately offer the treatment and services that they need.[1]

The question I pose is: What explains variation in the outcome of the recovery process for victims of conflict-related sexual violence?

With this question in mind, the dataset that I am discussing is the 2018 Women, Business and the Law Report produced by the World Bank.[2] Since 2009, the World Bank has annually produced a report on the state of gender equality in the eyes of the law. It organises the data into 7 main categories: “accessing institutions, using property, going to court, providing incentives to work, building credit, getting a job, [and] protecting women from violence.” With data collected from 189 countries, the dataset provides a number of questions for each category with most of them being “yes/no” answers. Additionally, it provides the income level and the region of the country.

I intend to use a nominal scale to measure the dataset as most of the data in the collection is a yes or no statement, with a few of the indicators having numerical interval data. With regards to my research, the dependent variable would be the outcome of the recovery process, and whether it was a success or a failure. The various independent variables that I intend on using are the indicators put forward by the dataset itself but also add more variables that relate directly to the conflict aspect of my research, and look at variables like:

  • Whether or not there was a conflict in the region?
  • If there was a conflict, were there any recorded cases of conflict-related sexual violence against civilians?
  • Post-conflict, were there any commissions set up to help survivors achieve judicial justice?

The benefits of this dataset are mainly that the report encompasses a vast range of countries and there appears to be very clear data for all of those countries under every indicator. However, the limitation that appears with this data set is that since it does not necessarily relate directly to my topic, there is very little information that I could truly cull out of it – which may make the dataset very limited for my research.

[1]Booth, Wayne; Colomb, Gregory; Williams, Joseph; Bizup, Joseph and Fitzgerald, William. “The Craft of Research, 4thedition. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 54.

[2]World Bank Group. “Women, Business and the Law 2018.” (Washington DC: The World Bank, 2018). October 8, 2019).


Research Portfolio Post 5: Research Puzzle Proposal

As per Booth et al’s formulation, I am proposing to research the rehabilitation and care for wartime sexual assault survivors because I want to find out why there is a lack of methods employed to aid survivors in their recovery process, in order to help my reader understand why there is no existing framework for the provision of the same, despite the fact that is such a widespread problem.

I began my research process with the intention of examining wartime sexual assault as a political perspective, aiming to focus on military strategies and rape as a weapon of war. However, through my preliminary research, I have been exposed to a variety of sources that track wartime sexual violence and the physical, emotional and mental impacts on women, who tend to be the most common victims, and their families. The issue of wartime sexual assault is widely discussed, and its socio-political implications have been researched by a large number of scholars. Yet, few researchers utilise the public health lens on the issue, like I intend to. Researchers Ba and R.S. Bhopal in a 2017 article specifically examine the physical, mental and social implications of wartime sexual violence, positing that the most significant outcomes of sexual violence were sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancies, PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and social abandonment and stigmatisation.[1]

As I researched further, a piece of research that stuck out to me the most was the work of Mahlet Woldetsadik who examined the long-term effects of wartime sexual violence on Ugandan women and their families. Woldetsadik’s intention with the paper was to try to fill the gap of knowledge regarding evidence of long-term impacts on survivors through in-depth interviews, which showed that there was “unresolved and untreated trauma, lack [of] access to mental health care, and face[d] economic hardships due to community stigma.”[2]In the article, Woldetsadik cites Annan et al and states that “According to population-based studies, over 26 percent of female youth (aged 14-35) surveyed in northern Uganda said they were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army.”[3]In addition to looking at the impacts on survivors, Woldetsadik also explores the secondary trauma placed upon their families and the impact of these factors on children born in captivity. Despite the creation of agreements by international organisations like the Rome Statute, the number of conflict-related sexual violence cases continues to soar – making this issue puzzling. Woldetsadik, like many researchers tend to, makes policy proposals in their work on sexual violence but this also presents another set of questions about the role of international and national organisations in the provision of care.[4]A large percentage of documents tend to speak to the political and economic stability in post-conflict regions. In fact, as Lesley Pruitt points out in her paper entitled “Looking Back, Moving Forward”, many “peace negotiations and ceasefire agreements almost always fail to include provisions regarding sexual violence… that of 300 peace agreements occuring since the Cold War’s end, only ten mentioned sexual violence at all.”[5]Initially, I believed that this was due to the overarching conflicts that take place in these regions, which made it difficult for governments to create proper rehabilitative programs to aid survivors. However, Pruitt further argues that even after the end of conflict periods, “governments are frequently uninterested in pursuing investigation and punishment for crimes committed against women, and in attempting to secure peace that may offer amnesties to certain groups, including perpetrators of violence.”[6]

I attempted to find primary sources for the experiences of wartime sexual assault, which proved difficult. Due to the lack of transparency around the issue of wartime sexual violence, there is a significant dearth of primary sources. Most governments do not make such information public and many survivors do not report it due to the administrative difficulty of doing so – which makes it difficult for researchers to access primary data and information. However, there are a few examples that appeared interesting to my research. One of these is the story of Nobel Laureate and conflict-related sexual violence survivor Nadia Murad Basee Taha. Nadia was one of the 3000 Yazidi women captured by ISIL and has been an advocate for the protection of victims of sexual violence in conflict zones. In her 2018 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Nadia stated that “if we do not want to repeat cases of rape and captivity against women, we must hold to account those who have used sexual violence as a weapon to commit crimes against women and girls.”[7]Additionally, in 2015, the UN released the “World’s Women”, a report that detailed the state of women and their rights. Section 2B2 of Chapter 6 deals with violence against women in conflict situations and references the UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), which called for “special measures to protect them from gender-based violence in such situations” through indicators that were “designed to monitor implementation and promoting the security of women.”[8]

The source acknowledges the sparseness of primary data sources. However, it also refers the reader to a website created by the Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, which mentions the MARA or the Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements. The Security utilises data collected in MARA to “promote appropriate and timely action to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, inform strategic advocacy.”[9]I believe that these sources and databases will aid me in my research, and lend a clearer picture as to why victims of conflict related sexual violence do not receive the rehabilitation and care they require.

Potential questions may include:

  • General: What explains the lack of rehabilitation methods to aid victims of conflict-related sexual violence in their recovery process?
  • Case specific: Why has UN investment in the Congo failed to protect and promote the rights of female survivors of conflict-related sexual violence?

Word count: 968


[1]Ba and R. S. Bhopal, “Physical, Mental and Social Consequences in Civilians Who Have Experienced War-Related Sexual Violence: A Systematic Review (1981-2014),” Public Health 142 (2017): 131.

[2]Mahlet Woldetsadik, Long-Term Effects of Wartime Sexual Violence on Women and Families: The Case of Northern Uganda (RAND Corporation, 2018), accessed September 29, 2019, iii

[3]Ibid., 55

[4]Ibid., xviii

[5]Lesley Pruitt, “Looking Back, Moving Forward: International Approaches to Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence”, Journal Of Women, Politics & Policy 33, no. 4 (2012): 303.


[7]Nadia Murad – Nobel Lecture 2018″, Nobelprize.Org, Last modified 2019,

[8]United Nations, “The World’s Women 2015” United Nations, 2015: 158.

[9]United Nations, “Monitoring, Analysis And Reporting Arrangements (MARA)”, accessed 30 September 2019,


Research Portfolio Post 4: Article Comparison

Ba and Bhopal claim that there is a significant need for improved care for survivors and highlight their trepidations about the long-term impact of wartime sexual violence on survivors, and their families[1]. Through analyzing data from 3075 different research papers in the field and almost 400 reference lists and personal communications by use of Microsoft Excel and MetaXL, Ba and Bhopal conducted the “systematic review” of data from 20 different case studies from 6 different countries. They also used mixed-method appraisal tools to ascertain the health results of wartime sexual assault on civilians since 1981. The paper predominantly draws on quantitative data, along with analysis of existing mixed method studies.

Similarly, Woldetsadik claims that Ugandan women suffer from “untreated trauma, lack access to mental health care, and face economic hardships.[2]” She utilises a “trauma processing” model by Remer and Ferguson to explore long-term impacts, in addition to semi-structured interviews with Ugandan women and Ugandan government surveys. Additionally, Woldetsadik makes use of a dataset known as GEO-SVAC, which provides an event-based geographic dataset of conflict events and presents a mix of qualitative and quantitative data to review the variety of different sources she makes use of.

Both of the research papers are arguably neo-positivist in the approach to their methodology, by relying heavily on case studies and statistical analysis. Despite their differences in focus and overall methods, they come to relatively similar conclusions about the topic they are discussing – stating the importance of improving care for survivors of sexual assault in conflict.

These papers relate to my research because they represent the angle and the kind of approach that I want to utilise in my own research paper. I believe that these two works provide a very clear nod to the existing conversation in the field and provide me with an introduction to the kind of data and methods that are currently pertinent to research in this area. In addition to this, it presents an insight into what kind of research is lacking in the field, which I believe is discourse on the post-trauma care framework.

[1]Ba and R. S. Bhopal, “Physical, Mental and Social Consequences in Civilians Who Have Experienced War-Related Sexual Violence: A Systematic Review (1981-2014),” Public Health 142 (2017): 121–135.

[2]Mahlet Woldetsadik, Long-Term Effects of Wartime Sexual Violence on Women and Families: The Case of Northern Uganda (RAND Corporation, 2018), accessed September 20, 2019,

Research Portfolio Post 3: Philosophical Wagers

In high school, I studied the theory of knowledge. The main point of this class was to answer the question – “how do we know what we know?” Throughout, we learned that the ways of knowing can be divided into two main categories. One is ontological, like sense perception, emotion, faith and intuition. Ontology determines how researchers look at and perceive the world – a framework for how researchers ascertain the events and the patterns that they are researching. As Andrew Abbott posits, “social science aims to explain social life.[1]” Researchers can use ontological frames to analyse the things they perceive to be true and to make sense of the things they believe to be fact. This relates directly to the sine qua nonof interpretive research Schwartz-Shea and Yanow present in their work: “(interpretive research) seeks knowledge about how human beings, scholars included, make individual and collective sense of their particular worlds.[2]” Another category is methodological ways, like reason, memory and language. Methodology determines how researchers can carry out their research, mainly the methods they can use to conduct data collection. It allows researchers to make more systematised conclusions about the world around them through means like surveys or structured interviews.

Since there are so many ways of knowing, it is not difficult to conduct research and to make knowledge claims about the same. However, this brings us to a new question – what really can be stratifiedas knowledge? There is no real obvious answer about what knowledge is. It can be argued that we know these things through the observation of people, things and events happening in our environment, but it can also be argued that the knowledge we have is a product of the programming and opinions passed down intergenerationally. I am of the view that the knowledge we hold is the product of a combination of factors. It is undoubtedly the ideas and things we can see materially but also the beliefs, opinions and feelings we can experience in a more abstract way. There is no all-encompassing definition of knowledge because it is itself an extremely broad concept and is heavily subjective, depending on a person’s interpretation of the world around them.

On that note, as a researcher, I do not believe that anyone can ever truly be an objective observer of the world they live in. Even the most rational of people are often affected by their biases or preconceived notions. Therefore, while we can try as much as possible to be aware of these prejudices, it is also important to note that we can never truly suspend them. Due to this, I believe that we are always contributing to the world of knowledge that we prescribe to. We tend to create work that is similar to that of people who share our worldview. This does often lead to the creation of biased work, but this is not necessarily a negative thing – it aids in providing more holistic views of the things we study and research, which deepens our understanding of the same.

[1] Abbott, Andrew Delano. Methods of Discovery: Heuristics For The Social Sciences. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004.

[2] Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, and Dvora Yanow. Interpretive Research Design: Concepts And Processes. New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2012.


Research Portfolio Post 2: Mentor Meeting

I met with my mentor, Professor Lauren Carruth, on the 27th of August from 1240 to 1300. Over the course of our discussion, we spoke about a multitude of topics. We discussed the different potential routes my research could take and also discussed the existing literature in the field. 

We began with discussing the sub-topic areas within my large research area, which is wartime sexual assault. I mentioned that I wanted to present a comparative analysis of case studies. Professor Carruth suggested that I also consider concepts like the connection between low intensity conflict and political insecurity, the use of rape as a weapon of war, and further sexual violence and rape as public health issues. Other possible ideas include looking at sexual violence as an occupational hazard and focusing on the vulnerability of men in times of war, with a focus on Yemen and Afghanistan. Towards the end of our conversation, Professor Carruth recommended some other examples I could look at, like the Dadaab Refugee Complex in Kenya and the use of sexual violence in Darfur. Additionally, she suggested that I look at the work of Dyan Mazurana, a researcher who focuses on gender-based violence in conflict. 

My meeting with Professor Carruth provided significant clarity to my research process, which I am very grateful for. With her recommendations and ideas, I have continued to read more about my topic subject and have come across even more ways that my research could take. However, I still do have many concerns. While I am very interested in my research topic, I do worry that my lack of previous contextual knowledge will prove to be a problem, as I have discussed with Professor Carruth. My major concern with this is being able to truly narrow down on a research topic. Despite this, I am optimistic that I will figure this out as time passes this semester.

In the short term future, I hope to continue to read about the subject of my research and learn more about the topic. Additionally, I hope to gain some clarity about what direction I personally want to take with my research. I am also beginning to think about research methodology and do believe that my research paper could be a small-n research paper. Nonetheless, I think that I will be able to have more concrete plans and goals for my work as I continue to learn in SISU 206 and 306.


Research Portfolio Post 1: Research Interests

“Systematic sexual abuse and other forms of gender-based violence are often deployed as weapons in war.”[1]

Almost a month ago, Kashmir lost its special status as a state. For the weeks that have followed, there have been countless articles about the instability in Kashmir, with a significant increase in discourse around sexual violence in conflict zones like the valley.

Even outside the context of Kashmir, more and more researchers are looking into wartime sexual assault and the literature on the subject continues to grow tenfold every day. For my Olson Scholar’s research topic, I am interested in investigating the topic through my own perspective. However, the biggest problem that I perceive I will face is truly narrowing down my topic due to the fact that there is no dearth of different dimensions on this issue.

The two most commonly discussed are perhaps the idea of rape as a weapon of war and the ethicality of wartime crimes of sexual violence. However, something that I have particularly noticed as a personal point of curiosity is the public health impact of wartime sexual assault on populations.

The underlying reason under perceiving wartime sexual assault as a public health issue is that violence, in and of itself, is a public health issue. In their 2016 research[2]paper, Leana S Wen and Kathleen Goodwin posit that violence is an epidemiological problem for two main reasons: firstly, it “directly impacts the well-being of communities everywhere,” and secondly, the effect of violence on a community could mean increased “toll of the trauma of living in high-crime areas” on vulnerable populations. Since wartime sexual assault arguably falls under these two categories, it is important to discuss the nature and the implications of sexual violence on a population both during and following periods of conflict, especially when taking into considerations effects like increases in STIs and unwanted pregnancies. The public health implications of this go beyond the physical – the impact on mental health is significant and can be extremely damaging to vulnerable citizenries.

However, as aforementioned, narrowing down on a specific area of investigation will undoubtedly pose a problem. As a student of the social sciences, I am filled with questions about the different nuances of the topic. For example, despite the efforts of the international organisations to mitigate the issue of wartime through statements and conventions like the International Committee of the Red Cross’ 1992 aide-mémoire to the Geneva Convention[3], why has there often been little to no impact on the numbers of sexual assault in times of war? What role do local and regional governments play in both instigating use of sexual violence but also in the pacification of the same? Additionally, does political insecurity inherently lead to power complexes and grandiose behaviour in its military factions?

There are many questions to be asked and answered in the context of this issue, which makes the research of the same both stimulating and Sisyphean. However, in the same vein, I look forward to researching the topic and establishing a better understanding of the same.


[1]“‘Kashmir Women Are The Biggest Victims Of This Inhumane Siege'”. Al Jazeera, Last modified 2019.

[2]Wen, Leana S., and Kathleen E. Goodwin. “Violence Is A Public Health Issue”. Journal Of Public Health Management And Practice22, no. 6 (2016): 503-505. doi:10.1097/phh.0000000000000501.

[3]Sellers, Patricia V. “The Prosecution Of Sexual Violence In Conflict: The Importance Of Human Rights As Means Of Interpretation.”, 2007.