An exploratory analysis of masters' dissertations in psychology undertaken by women and men in South Africa from 1964-1998.
This study was an exploratory thematic and categorical analysis of the titles and abstracts of women and men psychology master's dissertations completed from 1964 to 1998. These dissertations represent research undertaken at all South African universities. They are located on the Nexus database, developed by the Centre for Science Development (CSD) at the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) and maintained by the National Research Foundation (NRF). This research is an investigation of trends, which might lead to conclusions regarding the areas of psychological specialisations chosen for research, the methodologies of research applied and the sample type employed in the research. Secondly, a longitudinal analysis was conducted to examine if any shifts of focus over time in any of the three areas already mentioned (i.e. specialisation, methodology and sample type) had occurred. The methodology used was a combination of both quantitative statistical analysis and qualitative analysis of selected women's and men's dissertations. Content analysis was the preliminary research method used to code the data which was then statistically analysed by means of correspondence analysis. The literature review examined psychology's historical exclusion of women both as professionals and as potential subjects of research. The literature also examines the founding premise of psychological research dominated by scientific empiricism underpinned by logical positivism. Feminist literature was then reviewed in order to offer a commentary on the patriarchal underpinnings embedded in the discipline and to offer and explore alternatives. The outcome of this study revealed a number of valuable findings. First, there had been a major increase in the selection of women masters' students in psychology. Second, the dominant methodology remains quantitative in nature. There is however a slight increase in qualitative and combined research by both women and men in the 1990s. Third, there has been a radical increase in the 1990s of women entering the male domain of industrial psychology. Fourth, no major differences were found between women and men masters' students and their choice of specialisation area, methodology and sample type selected. Finally, women more often than men recognised the gender and ethnicity of their sample subjects. It must however be noted that gender and ethnicity of the sample subjects were still relatively infrequently registered in the titles and abstracts of both women and men's masters' dissertations. In conclusion the plethora of data available on Nexus and the findings identified in the present study a window has opened up to the potential for many future projects in terms of South African psychology masters' research.