Children's Research Centre
Research with and by Children and Young People

HOW to involve children and young people in research

Research ‘about, with and by’ children and young people is rooted in children’s unique view of the world. Young people are recognised to be capable human beings with unique views of the world. Those views are believed to be valid and well-informed. Adults are often surprised to find how much insight young people have. They see how even very young children can contribute meaningfully to research.

The Challenge

The challenge for researchers is how to encourage, facilitate and organise research which:

  • Is relevant to young people
  • Is accessible to young people
  • Creates opportunities to express views about the world as they see it

There are a range of different approaches and models for research with young people. For instance, we have already seen a range of approaches which considered ‘ Young people’s agency and empowerment’. Key factors which shape how research is carried out comprise:

  • The role that young people wish to take in the research
Some young people may wish to take a lead, others might want to be guided and the role that they wish to take can change as research studies develop.
  • The nature of the research question
  • The attitudes and beliefs of adults supporting young people in the research
Some research questions measure or count features of a topic. Answers are quantitative. Other questions explore different views of a topic and answers to questions are created in dialogue. There are a range of qualitative responses to a question.

The roles, children and young people can undertake in research

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Research about children and young people:

Young people are sources of data

Adult researchers as CHAMPIONS for the involvement of young people in investigation of matters which impact them

Research with children and young people:

Young people and researchers (frequently adults but sometimes other young people) generate data together to answer questions they develop together.

Adults as CO-RESEARCHERS supporting research of joint interest

Research by children and young people:

Young people choose their own topic, research questions and ways of researching.

Researchers as MOTIVATORS and FACILITATORS to encourage young people’s curiosity to initiate and lead research

What is important is that adults associated with research maintain a view of young people as capable of contributing fully to all research. This results in a number of roles for adult researchers:

  • Motivators to encourage young people to pursue their curiosity about the world to initiate research in matters which interest them
  • Facilitators to support young people to lead research they choose
  • Co-researchers to work with young people upon topics which are of shared interest
  • Champions to engage young people in investigation of matters which impact upon young people, when traditionally young people may not have the opportunity to provide a view.

How to plan and carry out ethical research with children and young people

Planning and carrying out ethical research with children and young people relies upon:

  • Commitment to a set of clear ethical research principles which guides all aspects of the research study
  • Adopting a reflexive research attitude ensures the researcher continuously reflects upon their relationship with participants and their potential impact on the research process.
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