Gender, Sex and Health Research Guide: A Tool for CIHR Applicants

As indicated in the Grants and Awards Guide, CIHR expects that all research applicants will integrate gender and sex into their research designs when appropriate. CIHR has implemented a requirement that all grant applicants respond to mandatory questions about whether their research designs include gender and sex (effective December 2010). These questions are part of CIHR's wider strategy for meeting the requirements of a 2009 federal government (Health Portfolio) policy on gender and sex based analysis.

There are no single agreed-upon definitions of "gender" or "sex", though it is fairly common to associate gender with socially constructed roles, relationships, behaviours, relative power, and other traits that societies ascribe to women and men. Sex is typically understood to refer to the biological and physiological characteristics that distinguish females from males. Gender and sex are interrelated. There is no simple "recipe" for integrating gender and sex in health research (or for accounting for the complex interrelationships between them and other factors or determinants of health).

The purpose of this tool is to give health researchers a framework for thinking through how gender and/or sex might be integrated into their research designs. We are introducing it in conjunction with the new mandatory questions for CIHR applicants. This resource, currently in its first iteration, will be revised to better meet CIHR applicants' needs. If you would like to share your feedback on it, please e-mail Zena Sharman, Assistant Director at the Institute of Gender and Health, at

Research approach:

  • Are the concepts of gender and/or sex used in your research project?
    • If yes, have you explicitly defined the concepts of gender and/or sex? Is it clear what aspects of gender and/or sex are being examined in your study?
    • If no, do you consider this to be a significant oversight? Given your knowledge of the relevant literature, are there plausible gender and/or sex factors that should have been considered? If you consider sex and/or gender to be highly relevant to your proposed research, the research design should reflect this.

Research questions and hypotheses:

  • Does your research question(s) or hypothesis/es make reference to gender and/or sex, or relevant groups or phenomena? (e.g., differences between males and females, differences among women, seeking to understand a gendered phenomenon such as masculinity)

Literature review:

  • Does your literature review cite prior studies that support the existence of significant differences between women and men, boys and girls, or males and females?
  • Does your literature review point to the extent to which past research has taken gender or sex into account?

Research methods:

  • Is your sample appropriate to capture gender and/or sex based factors? Is it possible to collect data that are disaggregated by sex and/or gender? Are the inclusion and exclusion criteria well justified with respect to sex and/or gender?

    (Note: this pertains to human and animal subjects and non-organismic biological systems)

  • Is the data collection method proposed in your study appropriate for investigations of sex and /or gender?
  • Is your analytic approach appropriate and rigorous enough to capture gender and/or sex based factors?


  • Does your study design account for the relevant ethical issues that might have particular significance with respect to gender and/or sex?

    (e.g., inclusion of pregnant women in clinical trials)

The questions are:

  1. Are sex (biological) considerations taken into account in this study? (Y/N)
  2. Are gender (socio-cultural) considerations taken into account in this study? (Y/N)
  3. (If the respondent answers "YES" for one or both questions) If YES please describe how sex and/or gender considerations will be considered in your research design. (maximum of 2,000 characters)
  4. (If the respondent answers "NO" for one or both questions) If NO please explain why sex and/or gender are not applicable in your research design. (maximum of 2,000 characters)