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Research with and by Children and Young People

3. Involving children and young people in all stages of research

Research methodologies

Research methodologies bring together a coordinated overall approach to a research project which comprises:
  • The underlying philosophical beliefs about how the researchers view the world (ontology) and the way knowledge is generated (epistemology)
  • Research methods comprising:
    • Data collection methods
    • Data analysis methods
  • Presentation and dissemination of findings
Findings contribute to further research in an ongoing cycle of research and discovery.

Click or tap the steps below to find out more:

Steps 1. VIEW OF THE WORLD AND NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE 2. RESEARCH QUESTIONS 3. DATA COLLECTION METHODS 4. DATA ANALYSIS 5. REPORTING AND DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS

5. Reporting and dissemination of research findings

The promotion of findings is essential to any study however big or small. Sharing findings fulfils the purpose for embarking on research. Generally, the purposes for research are to:

  • Find answers to a specific question
  • Widen our understand about something
  • Create change

We have also seen that research with young people has even more to offer because it can:

  • Create better research
  • Fulfil young people’s rights to be heard
  • Support young people’s agency and empowerment
  • Build more critical communities of young people

GO TO – ‘WHY: Benefits of involving children and young people in research

Reporting findings of research with young people

Involving young people in the preparation and dissemination of report findings is important and can be particularly compelling. It can:

  • Vividly demonstrate the contribution that young people have made by hearing about the research from the young people involved
  • Educate and inform others about young people’s capabilities and viewpoints as fully-fledge citizens
  • Empower young people within their communities
  • Demonstrate to those involved and young people generally that others want to listen to them
  • Build young people’s sense of belonging and commitment to their communities
  • Highlight important issues and topics in young people’s lives
  • Broker positive changes to support young people
  • Reveal and communicate new views of the world

Involving young people in preparing and disseminating findings

Involving young people has implications for the way:

  • Research findings are compiled e.g. in written reports, or in other ways such as research posters and these can be online or in hard copy
  • Findings are presented to others e.g. in formal presentations to specific groups of people, in conferences open to a wide audience of people or informal feedback to individual stakeholders.

Young people can contribute much towards the production of research findings for adult and child audiences; assist in producing materials other than reports, for example plays, videos or posters, dramas etc. If findings are made available to them young people can give talks presenting part or all of the research findings; use the research findings to inform, advocate and argue for change.

Planning to report research findings

The way we present and disseminate (tell others about) research findings depends on the purpose of the research. A simple approach to promoting research findings is to use the 5W’s + H – ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Why’, ‘Where’ and ‘When’ ….  plus ‘How’

 

 

Think about:

WHO

is interested in your research question; or understanding more about your research topic?

WHAT

do people most want to know?

WHY

do they want to know these things?

WHERE

do they look for information i.e. where should the research findings be put?

WHEN

is the best time to disseminate the findings to those interested?

HOW

would those interested best like findings to be presented?

 

WHO is interested in your research findings?

There are a range of people interested in any piece of research. Research with young people is nearly always of interest to other young people. However, preconceptions about what might or might not interest young people should be avoided. Findings should be made interesting and accessible to the widest possible range of people, including young people even if not specifically targeted at a specific young person’s issue.

WHAT will people most want to know about the research?

Different people will want to know different things. One way of dealing with this is to think about layers of information for different audiences. These layers can provide the right level of information for a wide range of adults and young people. Preparing information in these ‘layers’ can help to quickly tailor your findings for your important audiences.

Research Pyramid

 

WHY do people want to know about your research findings?

When preparing your ‘layers’ of information it is important to reflect upon the potential significance of your findings for the people you hope to reach. Preparing your findings in a way that will be of interest to your audience will increase the likelihood that they will pay attention to what you say, to remember it and possibly take action. Young people involved in the research may understand the significance of research findings to other young people very well and be able to advise on how to present information.

WHERE should research findings be put?

Understanding where people look for or where people might accidentally stumble across information is important in getting your research findings noticed. You may need to get advice. Young people involved in research will know what sorts of information sources, particularly social media sources are currently in fashion.

WHEN is the best time to disseminate the findings to those interested?

Knowing what is happening in the lives of the people to whom you wish to communicate your findings is important. For instance, contacting professionals during holiday periods could mean that information is missed. Using social media during the school day might miss young people who do not have access to their phones in school / college. Meanwhile linking a launch of your findings soon after an announcement about the same topic might draw attention to your study. Care also has to be taken in case your study is overshadowed.

What is happening in young people’s lives is different to adults.  For instance, young people have intense periods of studying to sit exams which most adults do not. It is important to talk to young people to find out about when they are open to receiving information.

HOW would those interested best like findings to be presented?

There are a wide range of ways to present and promote findings. The what, why, when and where questions will help to inform you about the best ways. How you present and promote findings can determine how much attention people give to your research. Young people can be particularly good at identifying ways which are novel and attention-grabbing. Look at the range of ideas in this section and consider how these could be further developed.

 

Ways to report research

Your purpose for communicating your research is to create change by:

  • Informing people and building bodies of new knowledge to support future action
  • Providing answers to questions which might demonstrate new opportunities
  • Presenting compelling arguments for specific changes

 

General principles of communicating research:

  • Know your target audience – Follow the 5 W’s + H to plan reports which are tailored to the particular people you want to influence
  • Focus on the most important points for the audience – not all the points
  • Keep the communication as simple as possible
  • Give the communication impact– make it interesting and enjoyable
  • Take the opportunity to engage interested readers in the research by signposting them to further information about your research.

Written reports

These are traditionally the most common way of presenting study findings.

Good for:

Reporting findings to organisations who have formal procedures for making decisions because it gives a lasting record of details of the research to support decisions.

Written academic articles are published in journals to give a lasting record of research findings which others can use to build their own research.

Challenges:

Written reports can be demanding in terms of the time they take to write and read because of the amount of detail they can contain.

Best practice:

  • Decide what ‘layer’ of information the people receiving the report need (See WHAT will people most want to know about the research) and focus on the right amount of detail.
  • Think of ways of presenting information as clearly and simply as possible within the report and give the reader some variety to their reading, for instance use:
    • Graphs and charts to present numbers and numerical information
    • Diagrams and pictures to show relationships between facts and illustrate key points
  • Ask the recipients what sort of report is most useful; how long or short; if they have a set format they are used to reading.

GO TO: the resources section to see examples of research reports

 

Summary reports

Long reports often have an ‘Executive Summary’ and Academic articles have an ‘Abstract’ at the start outlining the key points that are expanded in the main report. These prepare and help the reader take in the detailed information in the main report. Summary reports can also be used on their own, giving the reader a place to go and read the full report e.g. on a website if they wish.

Good for:

Communicating key findings to busy people with little time or interest in reading a long, detailed report. Also good for choosing and presenting information for a specific group of people.  Preparing separate reports for people who have slightly different interests in the topic can be the most effective way of sharing results of a study.

Challenges:

Being able to choose the most important information for different groups of people can be difficult. One way of helping is to connect the different reports so that you can refer people from one group to other aspects of the topic in another report.

Best practice:

The best practice principle of writing full length reports apply to summary reports. In addition, short reports are written in a more succinct style. Readers can be to other sources for further details e.g. a different report or a website where for instance more detailed statistical results are found or more details about the research methodology and methods are set out.   

GO TO: the resources section to see examples of summary research reports

Infographics and posters:

Infographics and posters are ways of telling people about the most important highlights of research. They use diagrams, pictures and charts to make them interesting and impactful to get readers’ attention. Infographics and posters are often used alongside a report to introduce or advertise the research. They can also be used at a gathering of people to use to help talk about the research.

Good for

  • Getting peoples’ attention especially if they are busy but also for simplifying and drawing attention to the most important parts of the research.

Challenges

  • It can be challenging to choose the most important points. Going back to identifying WHO you want to read about your research and then WHAT they will want to know will guide you.

Best practice

The best infographics and posters have:

  • A simple eye-catching design:
  • Which uses pictures and images to draw attention to the topic
  • With enough but not too many colours
  • Clear writing which is not too small and uses the same font (style) throughout
  • Uses two or three sizes of writing (not too many) for headings to draw attention to key points
  • Information written in short simple sentences and short paragraphs
  • A clearly, set out route through the information using the design or arrows or numbered sections to help the reader
  • A way of getting the reader’s interest e.g. asking a question or making them think about a particular aspect of the topic / your findings, making a headline of an unexpected fact/finding.

GO TO: the resources section to see examples of infographics and posters reporting research

Personal presentations

This is another popular way of reporting research findings. Personal presentations can take place at number of different sorts of events. Researchers can create an event e.g. to present their findings to all the stakeholders involved by inviting them all to gather at the end of the study.  Researchers can also apply to share their findings at academic, professional and public events organised by individuals and associations with an interest in their topic.

Good for:

Sharing and getting feedback about the research with people interested in the topic. This provides opportunities to continue to develop understanding about the topic. It is also an opportunity to thank stakeholders for their participation, to strengthen and grow your network of people interested in your topic. It is an excellent opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the topic and impress upon your audience how important it is. The contribution of young people to personal presentations is often very compelling. The way in which they express their ideas and enthusiasms is often novel to adult audiences and interesting to both adults and other young people.

Challenges:

Good presentations can take time to prepare and sometimes it takes time and practice for people to feel confident about presenting to people in person.

Best practice:

Personal presentations use all the best practice of preparation using the 5 Ws and HOW.  In addition, many use presentation slides to help the audience follow the speaker’s key points. Presentation slides should follow the best practice guidance associated with infographics and posters. In addition, there are some key points to remember when giving personal presentations:

  • The length of presentations can vary. What is important is that you think about your audience and how long they will be interested to concentrate upon your presentation. Think about whether your audience would prefer to have more time to ask questions and discuss rather than simply listen. Organise how much you will say to suite their needs. A 20-minute maximum is a good rule of thumb for most presentations.
  • As for other ways of sharing your results don’t forget to end with a request to your audience to do something that will help to take your research forwards. This can be as simple as requesting feedback and sharing your contact details; referring them to further information; inviting them to leave their contact details to receive future information
  • Whenever possible involve young people from research in personal presentations. Young people can lead and share presentations. If that is not possible audio and video contributions can be inserted and young people’s quotes used to shape key points in compelling ways.

Creative ways of reporting research findings

Creative ways of reporting research findings might be particularly appropriate to share the findings of studies that have used creative ways of data collection and analysis, but this is not the only reason for using them. Creative ways of reporting research findings can include:

  • Digital images presented off- or on-line in a way that describes findings
  • Displays of drawings and products of crafting which carry meaning and tell the story of findings
  • Performance-based presentations such as:
  • Dance and/or drama performances
  • Songs or poetry recitals
  • Story telling / sharing

 

Good for:

Making research findings impactful, memorable and interesting for audiences. These creative ways of sharing findings can include a wide range of ideas in highly collaborative ways. This means that a range of people can contribute. In particular young people are able to communicate key findings and their views on the topic directly with people they wish to influence.

Challenges:

Sometimes creative methods of reporting findings can take time to prepare and perfect. It is also important that sufficient explanation is given to support visual and performance methods of reporting results. For instance, a commentary to accompany a dance or drama performance or brief written programme notes.

Best practice:

The creative aspect of reporting findings should support the findings rather than over-shadow the findings. In other words, audiences should be clear about the key points you wish to communicate and not just remember the wonderful drawings, images or performances.

Data Collection

Children construct their understanding / view of the world and things in it from their lived experiences. Knowledge and understanding is generated as they experience the world.

Researchers understand that different children will have diffent views of the world; depending on their experiences. Also, children’s views of the world will change as they gather more experience.

IN OTHER WORDS: Children’s understandings of the world and things in it are different from each other and can alter over time.

Data Collection

Are about generating knowledge through:

  • Observation
  • Interviews (formal structured sets of questions to informal free-flowing discussions)
  • Surveys
  • Video/Photographic data collection
  • Drawings and other creative media

Research Questions

Are about generating knowledge through:

  • Observation
  • Interviews (formal structured sets of questions to informal free-flowing discussions)
  • Surveys
  • Video/Photographic data collection
  • Drawings and other creative media

View of the world and Nature of Knowledge

Children construct their understanding / view of the world and things in it from their lived experiences. Knowledge and understanding is generated as they experience the world. Researchers understand that different children will have diffent views of the world; depending on their experiences. Also, children’s views of the world will change as they gather more experience. IN OTHER WORDS: Children’s understandings of the world and things in it are different from each other and can alter over time.

Methodologies with or by children and young people are nowhere near as developed as methodologies to research about children conducted on adult terms, but this is changing (Dahl, 2014). Too often children and young people’s involvement in participatory research is restricted to the collection of data. Far less research for instance engages children and young people in the analysis of their data (Nind, 2011). Lees and Mann (2004, p.43) identify each of the stages of the research process and the way children and young people can be involved:

Children can be involved in any and all of these stages in a range of ways, dependent on what they choose to be involved in. Adult researchers are responsible for making each stage accessible and working with children and young people’s existing capabilities to participate. Examples include:

Young people could be consulted about how they might like to participate; how to identify children who could be involved; what are appropriate research topics, the aims and objectives; what training could be provided and to whom; how to recruit researchers

Young people can help in the detailed research design stage by helping to formulate precise research questions which are relevant and interesting to young people. They can then help to identify and select the sort of data that helps to answer the questions and help to interpret and analyse the data collected from their view of the world as a young person.

Young people can act as peer researchers, carrying out a whole range of fieldwork tasks such as  distributing questionnaires; filling in simple questionnaires with respondents; undertake interviews; facilitate group discussions; carry out structured observation; play games, sing songs etc; promote the research with their peers; act as research assistants, taking part in interviews as an advisor, helping to engage with other children in a positive way; interview professionals and other adults

Young people can help bring together key issues they see arising from the data; write sections of the report; read and comment on draft reports.

Young people can give talks presenting part or all of the research findings; use the research findings to argue for change, if they are made available to them in an accessible form; advise on, and contribute much towards the production of the findings for adult and child audiences; assist in producing materials other than reports, for example plays, videos or posters, dramas etc.

Early planning and development stage

Careful detailed planning of research projects with children and young people is vital to:

  • Set the right approach – a partnership of adult and young people in research roles
  • Ensure every opportunity is identified for children and young people to participate
  • Keeping flexible and responsive to the research situation; to respond to new suggestions about the way to do research; to find alternatives when things don’t work as expected; to take up unforeseen opportunities which might add to the quality of the study.

Setting the right approach to research project

The focus of research with young people should be upon maintaining the most productive research relationship between the adults and young people involved. This involves:

  • Discussing the research and sharing ideas about what the research is about; the interest each of the potential participants have in the research; having a clear idea about the purpose of the research and at least working versions of the research questions – this should be available to share as a reminder for all research members and to help in enrolling people to the research.

GO TO The resources section to find: Preparing a shared research plan

  • Agreeing who should be involved in the research; the roles of each of the people involved and how those young people and adults should be enrolled

GO TO the resources section to find: Preparing research job descriptions and Enrolling research participants.

  • Deciding how adults and children in the research will communicate and manage the project; e.g. how disagreements will be managed

GO TO the resources section to find: Preparing a communication plan for research

Ensuring every opportunity is identified for young people to participate

Identifying all opportunities for young people to participate in research. Here is an example of a research methodology which includes children in every aspect of the research study.

The Research Process Children use the findings to argue for change Children decide on the topic to be researched Children take part in appointing researchers Individual respondents participate actively and can fully express their views Respondents work together to formulate their views Children undertake fieldwork eg interviews Children take part in data analysis, interpretation Children write the report Children present the findings to others Children take part in managing the research process Children design the research The Research Process

Engaging everyone involved in detailed planning and discussion at the start, draws upon the whole research team’s skills, knowledge and experiences, particularly those of young people themselves. Discussion can lead to creative ideas and innovative practice. Different research methods and approaches can lead to the discovery of new and interesting information.

Keeping flexible and responsive to the research situation

Discussion about how the research is being conducted is a part of being reflexive about research which supports the quality and ethical conduct of research.

GO TO:  HOW 1. Reflexivity at the heart of ethical research

Discussion should be a regular feature of all studies because new ideas can emerge about how to research a topic the more the researchers get to know. This will also help the research team to deal with changing circumstances. For instance, many research interviews and focus groups were moved online to accommodate COVID-19 social distancing and lock down rules.  This didn’t stop children and young people sharing their thoughts about topics through their photographs and creative drawings; it also opened up opportunities to contribute and collaborate in new ways like preparing shared mind maps, diagrams and discussion points using shared electronic documents.

Detailed research design stage

Research design focuses upon how data is to be collected and then how data is to be analysed. When choosing data collection and analysis methods, researchers need to keep in mind:

  • the research questions
  • the need to be ethical and sensitive
  • the setting and context of the research
  • any particular needs of the children or young people who will participate
    (Fargas-Malet et al., 2010)

A variety of data collection and data analysis tools have been developed which might particularly suit children and young people in research. There is no one ‘correct’ way of collecting or analysing data. The two key principles to keep in mind are:

  • Qualitative data collection is about collecting sufficient information which is both reliable and relevant for answering the research question(s)
  • Qualitative data analysis is about reviewing information gathered in an unbiased way to identify patterns and potential themes or narratives which help to answer the research question(s).

GO TO: HOW Section 2 Considerations and practicalities of planning and conducting high quality research.

General considerations about research methods with young people include:

  • Being mindful and open to the time and scheduling constraints young people have in their lives; the period of time young people wish to engage in data collection
  • Creating an open and informal atmosphere
  • Stressing the point that there are no right or wrong answers (and reiterate this message during data collection as appropriate)
  • The use of questions and language which are age appropriate clear and understandable
  • Adults checking assumptions that young people will interpret research questions or data collected in a particular way it is important to keep checking what you think the respondent means with what they actually mean
  • Piloting of data collection and analysis methods is essential.

(Adapted from Guidelines for Research with Children and Young People Catherine Shaw, Louca-Mai Brady and Ciara Davey, NCB, 2011, p.20)

Data collection tools in research

People engaged in research are each individuals with different enthusiasms, skills and experiences and should not be treated as one group who we assume all think in the same ways and like to do things in the same way.  However young people have helped to develop data collection tools which have resulted in successful insightful research findings and extended the range of ways that data is collected in research studies. These are characterised by:
  • Creative ways of generating data about a topic under investigation e.g. using photography and making videos of the topic; drawing pictures to represent thoughts and feelings towards a topic; creating and enacting stories; conducting walking tours of research ‘spaces’
  • Adaptions to ‘traditional’ data collection methods including surveys, interviews and focus groups for instance:
    • Surveys which use pictures to pose questions and emoji faces to show levels of agreement with statements
    • Active surveys which even small children can complete by standing next to their answer choice as a group activity
    • Interviews which focus upon young people’s own photographs/videos/art to prompt discussion of a topic and generate more information about a topic
  • Multiple data collection methods using different types and ways of collecting data within one study e.g. using the “Mosaic” approach to researching with very young children; “Photovoice” used successfully in Youth Action Research
 

Creative ways of generating data

Things to remember when thinking creatively about generating data:

  • The objective of data collection is to provide sufficient, relevant information to answer the research questions
  • Qualitative research questions ask open questions to get a range of different answers (rather than closed questions that measure or count answers)
  • Qualitative research is most often interested in finding out people’s views, experiences and feelings about a topic.
Why use creative ways of generating data?
  • Thinking in different ways about topics can prompt people to recall things differently; come to new understandings.
  • People can take their knowledge and understanding about things for granted and perhaps not think it worthwhile mentioning
  • Sometimes people are embarrassed or concerned about expressing what they actually think because it may be different to what they hear others around them say. Finding a less direct way to represent their thoughts feels ‘safer’ for instance choosing or taking photographs about topic which represents their opinions and views.
  • It can be fun and an exciting way of discovering something about ourselves, about our thoughts and feelings about topics we don’t generally think about!
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