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*Women's and Gender Studies Subject Guide: Topic: Sexual Harassment


Topic: Sexual Harassment

Quick Tips:

Keep Up with the News

Especially with hot button issues, the situation on the ground can evolve rapidly, and you want your research to reflect the issue in its current state. Double-check a variety of news outlets to see if there have been any developments in legislation, or new incidents and events you would want to reference in your research.

Context Is Useful

Focusing on a specific context can help narrow your research focus. Examples include sexual harassment in the workplace, in sports, in politics, amid virtual settings, etc. There are some common factors across contexts, but honing in on one setting can be an opportunity to delve into more detail.

Consider the Big Picture

What are the major factors effecting this issue, beyond specific cases of sexual harassment? This may seem to counter the previous tip, but bear with me. Often, overemphasizing the particulars of the victim or the perpetrator in a specific sexual harassment incident can distract from the larger issues at work. What does your research point to as 'big picture' factors? Power dynamics? Reporting infrastructure? Public opinion? Then you can take those 'big picture' factors and tie them back to the specific context or example from your research.

Topic Breakdown

Taking the research interest that's in your mind and translating it into keyword searches can be challenging. Below is a sample breakdown of the process:

Research Question: 'What can be done to reduce or eliminate sexual harassment of women working in medicine?'

We want to break this idea into key terms, and supplement those terms with synonyms and related concepts found during our background research. 

Sample Key Terms: 'sexual harassment', 'women', and 'medicine' come to mind, but also consider 'victimization', 'sexual bullying', 'health care', 'patient', etc. Remember to include keywords related to the potential solution, such as 'reporting', 'training', 'accountability', etc.

Putting It All Together: These keywords are the building blocks of several searches on the same topic, as we'll want to try variations of our search to pull the best selection.

Sample search strings: ''sexual harassment'' AND medicine    or  "sexual harassment'' AND ''health care'' AND accountability  

See how one of the sample search strings plays out in the library's ProQuest Central database. We would want to do several additional variations on other aspects of the topic to get a full picture.

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Suggested Search Terms

Continue to build a word bank of search terms related to your specific focus, but here are some suggested terms:

sexual misconduct

sexual violence,  also  sexual assault

intimate partner violence

#MeToo,  also  #TimesUp

community activism

quid pro quo harassment

forced arbitration

nondisclosure agreement



observer,  also  bystander