Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Marybeth Gasman


In this dissertation, I explore the construction and reproduction of social identities

(race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity) in educational policy and

research. Framed through a Foucauldian genealogy of knowledge-making practices, I

focus on the discourses of social identities embedded in the (re)production of data in

educational research. Drawing from sociohistorical methods and bibliometrics, I

examine three distinct, yet interrelated, domains. First, I explore the construction of

datasets used in postsecondary research, including a federal dataset (the Integrated

Postsecondary Education Data System) and a private nationally-representative survey of

students (The Freshman Survey). Secondly, I consider the uses of data emerging from

these databases by examining 21,069 peer-reviewed articles published in eleven

journals of educational research. Lastly, I examine the discursive practices of of social

identities in the context of a specific postsecondary institution (East University, a

pseudonym), where I connect administrators’ perspectives on demographic data

collection practices with emerging federal standards. Findings suggest that there is a need for increased critical data literacy to understand the points of convergence

between the conceptual framing of race/ethnicity and sexual orientation/gender

identity. I suggest a need for more coalitional politics in the production of educational

research as a strategy to enhance how social identities are understood in contemporary

educational research.

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