Writing a Research Proposal: A Sample

A research proposal or synopsis is the first step towards applying for a doctoral or post doctoral study. In this post I will be sharing a sample research proposal which would give you an idea how a research proposal is developed.

Gender Identity  and  perception of  gender based  violence: A study of   adolescent  girls in Delhi. 


Gender and Power

Gender which is a social construct for male and female has been studied and discussed widely and across disciplines.(John et. al, 2017). Gender is a multilevel system of difference and inequality which involves cultural beliefs,  distributions of resources, patterns of behaviour, organizational practices, and selves and identities (op.cit.). With gender comes role definition for social living.  Individuals are socialised to develop gender identities and beliefs and perform their roles according to the  gender norms.  This process occurs over a period of time through different agencies of socialisation like family, peer group, culture etc. It is the early childhood experiences that lead men to be masculine and women to be feminine (Jaidka, 2009). Gender socialization is a process whereby individuals develop, refine and learn to ‘do’ gender through internalizing gender norms and roles as they interact with key agents of socialization, such as their family, social networks and other social institutions . Gender socialization is situated in different contexts, and therefore is contextually dependent, as well as dynamic. Gender norms are the sets of rules for what is appropriate masculine and feminine behaviour in a given culture (Ryle, 2011), and gender identity is the way individuals think of themselves as being male or female (American Psychological Association, 2011). Different disciplines , like psychology, Sociology etc.  explain gender in various ways. Cognitive theorists focused their attention on the gender knowledge structure and how information was processed and internalized. According to this approach, children acquire a gender identity and learn to gender-type themselves as they go through a series of discrete developmental stages. According to psychologists children are not passive agents of socialization but have cognitive capabilities that allow them to process and internalize pertinent information. Sociologists perspectives believe that through everyday practice, individuals ‘do’ gender; and in turn produce and reproduce gender. How gender is performed and what is learned through gender socialization differs by class, race, cultural expectations and beliefs, sexual identity and other factors. Local and national media are often found to perpetuate gender stereotypes and provide additional legitimacy to current gender norms. (UNICEF, 2017).New forms of gender identity and roles are being influenced by  the  digital revolution, i.e the internet and the digital social media. These platforms many a times communicate gender role performance and adolescent are highly exposed to this medium in the present context (Lingam, 2018). Priess et al , points out that  in comparison to adolescent boys, girls are more self- conscious have a lower self esteem, are more concerned about interpersonal relationships and physical appearance, and are likely to be accommodating and compliant when interacting with others.  Parents encourage independence, self-confidence, achievement and competitiveness in son ;whereas, warmth and courtesy towards others in their daughters. 

When gender is used to exercise  power or control over the other gender it leads to disempowerment of the other gender. 

Empowerment  has become synonymous with women in the present era. In  other words empowerment is  to give or bestow with power. This need arises as a result of imbalance of power structure in the society. Question arises: what type of power? Is it financial, social, right to make and take a decision, right to choose, or something else. The answer to these questions  needs to be explored. If women enter the labour force due to extreme economic needs, or work under hazardous conditions or are low paid, it is not certain that it may lead to women empowerment at the individual or societal level (Lee-Rife et al , 2012). ICRW defines women economic empowerment as enabling access to the resources that create economic growth as well as the agency to act on and make economic decisions. 

 ‘The expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them is called empowerment’ (Kabeer, 2001). Many policies and programmes are being launched for women and girls by the welfare agencies, still the road seems to be farfetched. The status of women in many strata of the society remains subjugated. One of the very common face of this dominance  and control is violence against women which appears to be an accepted norm of the society. The direct  form of  violence  being domestic violence, rape etc. and name calling, shaming, blaming, eve-teasing, restricted educational and economic opportunities being the indirect form of violence.  

 Forms of Gender Based Violence

Domestic violence is commonly perceived in the form of physical violence only but according to Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act , 2005 domestic violence is any harm or injury which endangers the physical or mental well-being of a person. It  describes four types of abuse i.e, physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional  abuse, economic abuse.  Physical abuse is any bodily pain or harm caused to a woman; sexual abuse is any act of sexual nature which degrades or humiliates the dignity of a woman, emotional and verbal abuse means any kind of insults or humiliation, especially for not bearing a child or a male child, economic abuse is depriving the victim from any economic or financial resources to which she is entitled.   

Domestic violence has its presence across the globe varying only in degree. Studies have shown that violence is used as an  exercise of power and control over  women across cultures and ages (Jaidka, 2009, Das et. al, 2014; Namy et. al , 2015). This continues from one generation to the other and the likelihood of  domestic violence perpetrated by a  male increases if he has been exposed to this type of violence in his childhood. (Namy, et al 2015). According to law of the country it is a crime but we often see or get to hear about such cases. About 468 cases of domestic violence were reported in India in 2015(National Crime Bureau record, 2015), the rest go unreported.  

Technology facilitated  violence 

The invention of digital technology has facilitated a number of social media platforms. These are also used as mediums for abuse and violence by the perpetrators. Many times victims are clueless about reporting such incidents. The notion of cybercrime or cyber bullying is not very common in a developing country like India. The concept of violence is dependent on existing norms and is often not acknowledged as violence (Hinson et. al, 2017).   Very few cases of such type are reported. A recent report in The Hindu (June 2, 2018) highlights the vulnerability of women being harassed online on social media.  

“Technology-facilitated GBV is action by one or more people that harms others based on their sexual or gender identity or by enforcing harmful gender norms. This action is carried out using the internet and/or mobile technology and includes stalking, bullying, sexual harassment, defamation, hate speech and exploitation (ICRW, 2018)”.

This type of violence is  a nascent field. Terminology, definitions and measures are still inconsistent. Terms like cyber violence, cyber aggression, digital abuse and online victimization are used interchangeably, making it difficult to differentiate between them and measure them.

Technology-facilitated GBV occurs worldwide.The violence is often sexual and can have severe impacts on the victims/survivors. Every victim/survivor is impacted in some way by their
experience. Those impacts can include significant harms to their physical and mental health, social status and economic opportunities, and, in some cases, have led to death. Impact is divided into five categories: psychological (e.g., shame, depression or fear); physical (e.g., self-harm, assault or arrest); functional (e.g., changing a route or taking down a profile); economic (e.g., extortion or loss of income-generating or educational opportunities); and social (e.g., excluded by family, friends or coworkers).

Legitimization of violence and perception of violence 

Culture plays a significant role in propagating gender based violence. According to Galtung (1990) ‘those aspects of culture  that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form is called cultural violence”. Cultural violence makes direct and structural violence look, even feel right-or at least not wrong. Some examples of cultural violence given by Galtung (1990) is religion, ideology, language, art etc. As masculine and feminine  gender identity starts being formed during childhood and adolescent, use of violence may get associated with masculinity. Certain norms may emphasize men’s dominance and power over women and lead them to negative behaviours such as violence against women, drug abuse etc. to exercise control over women. Numerous studies show strong associations between childhood experiences of violence and the likelihood of perpetrating and or experiencing violence as an adult. Socially accepted attitudes about gender roles and responsibilities, whether held by females or males, are associated with greater acceptance of violence against women, while more equitable attitudes are associated with less acceptance of violence. (Jaidka, 2009; Namy et al, 2015; Das et al, 2014). In the patriarchal system of our culture, women are psychologically and socially shaped to internalise  the idea of their own inferiority and this gets passed on from one generation to the other. To add to the misery, religious ideologies are used to justify  male dominance and patriarchy. Very often religious scriptures are cited to legitimize oppression of women (Rackozky, 2004). Discriminatory norms and practices combined with high poverty and limited service provision, limit the capabilities of adolescent girls. (Bantebya, 2013). 

Significance of the study

Domestic violence is only one form of violence. There are other types of violence outside the family which women face and are often undefined. The era of digital technology has opened doors for yet another type of  violence that is online or digital. Emerging forms of gender based violence needs new ways of dealing with it, only if it is recognized as a violence.  Overall, there are few interventions that specifically address technology-facilitated violence. While there are  interventions out there, they are mostly at a small scale and untested. Even fewer interventions aim to prevent it. The solutions that do exist tend to focus on supporting the victims to report and document their experiences and on linking them to community and institutional support services. Other programs are designed to support local initiatives and grassroot movements to raise awareness on the issue. The study would be significant in developing programmes  targeting adolescent girls; to address the issue of  gender based violence especially technology based.     

Review of literature: 

Gender based violence has been studied across the globe. Sharrif (2005), explored the forms of online violence and how girls are vulnerable to it. The author focused on training the school personnel to prevent such crimes in the schools and policy implications to further narrow down such incidents. The study also highlighted the present laws and policies for cyber violence and how schools can implement them. 

Pereria et al, (2014), looked into the technical aspect of digital crime and violence. In order to prevent violence digital security should be ensured in the  social media platform itself. They stressed upon the need to conceptualize cybercrime so that laws can be made for better prevention.

EIGE  (2017), in its report pointed out that women aged 18-24 face severe type of cyber violence which  are sexual in nature. It also highlights the dearth of data related to online gender based violence and the inadequacy of the legislation to address this issue. The social recognition of this type of violence also needs to be propagated. 

Brudwig ( 2018) observed that women often do not bother to report cyber violence due to the apathy of the law implementing agencies. In majority of the countries the law enforcement agencies and the court are failing to respond to ICT mediated gender based violence. 

Heather, (2014) points out the reasons for normalisation of gender based violence. 

Borrajo et al  2015, in their study gave a starting point in understanding the variables which are involved in perpetuating online violence. They also observed that there is a degree of normalisation of abuse in a dating relationship. Henry and Powell, 2015, examined the technology facilitated gender violence among adult women and recommended exploration into the motivation of the perpetrators and the context of relationships in which it occurs. They also highlighted the role of legislation in controlling such incidence. Thakur (2018),studied the online gender based violence in Jamaica and urged for a  response from the civil society and government in the form of specific policy and awareness programmes.

The literature shows that most studies have focused on the law and policy strengthening aspect of technology facilitating violence since the existing policies are not adequate. However sociocultural aspects and the views of the victims have not been much discussed. 

Rationale and Methodology

Socio-cultural factors such as religion, moral values, social values, media and technology are important aspects in shaping gender identity and perception and attitude  of GBV. Exposure  to digital technology at an early age has opened doors for yet another medium and form of  GBV. Cyber violence though in its nascent form is prevalent and there is a need to define or conceptualize technology facilitated GBV. Behaviors such as violence, need to be identified. Policy and legislation can be strengthened only if there is a social awareness regarding the issue. 

 This study proposes to get insight into gender development and the socio-cultural  aspects of cyber violence by analysing the views of the victims. The study would also  help in identifying patterns of  cyber violence leading to its conceptualization. The  study proposes to investigate  the factors responsible for gender identity among adolescent girls, as it is established that gender constructs are formed during childhood and adolescence.  The researcher would also attempt to know the attitude of these adolescent girls towards gender based violence ( indoors, outdoors, online/digital)  and test the assumption that there exists a certain degree of acceptance of gender based violence. 

The following Research Question would be answered: 

  1. Do socio-cultural factors play a role in attitude formation towards gender based violence?
  2. Does normalization or acceptance of  gender based violence exist among adolescent girls?
  3. To what extent sociocultural factors influence gender identity. 
  4. Does technology play a role in   shaping gender identity and GBV? 


To answer these questions the researcher proposes to carry out a qualitative study with the following  objectives:  

1. To explore the role of socio-cultural factors (religion, social norms, media) in developing gender  identity  among adolescent girls. 

2. To identify the perception and attitude (morality , human rights, social values, religious values) towards  gender based violence (GBV) with focus on technology facilitated GBV 

 3. To analyse the prevalence  and patterns of normalisation of GBV if any.


The tools of the data collection would be In-depth Interviews and Focused Group Discussions. The researcher proposes to interview 30 adolescent girls (14-19 years) who have been victims and conduct  5 FGD in Delhi. The researcher proposes to adopt a purposive sampling method. The sample would be identified from  senior secondary  schools, undergraduate colleges and skill training centres of various non-profit organizations in Delhi.  The data collected would be analysed  qualitatively. If required software such as MAXQDA or CAQDAS would be used for coding and  organising the data.


The first chapter would be Introduction to the topic of the research. The second chapter would contain the literature review and Research Methodology. The third chapter would detail the findings of the study. The fourth chapter would consist of  analysis of the findings and the fifth chapter would consist of  recommendations and conclusion.   

Limitation of the study:   The results of the study cannot be generalised for a larger population as the concept of GBV is influenced by societal norms which vary across region, country or level of awareness. Hence the results obtained cannot be applicable universally. 


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DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6324-4.ch014

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