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

Drawings and craft-based methods

Championing use of drawings and craft-based methods

Non-verbal ways of describing feelings or an aspect of a topic in a drawing or model can help to overcome language barriers or difficulties in expressing ourselves. This can enable some to feel more control over engaging with topics, particularly difficult topics to discuss

Drawing of craft tools
Drawing of doodles
The act of drawing or crafting can also provide an informal opportunity for discussion with peers and adults; fellow researchers and others to generate information alone or together and can:
  • Create a relaxed environment, help to build relationships between young people and adult researchers to support freely flowing discussion about the topic
  • Help us think more deeply about information to answer a research question
  • Provide an object (e.g. a map, drawing or model) to prompt a discussion that enables us to share our thoughts about a topic
  • Being in control of drawing or crafting an artefact which represents thoughts on a topic can provide access to people’s own authentic views and reduce the power imbalance child and adult participants in research. (Brown, 2020)
What people say about what they have created and how it represents aspects of the research topic can be valuable additional data.

Research studies using drawings and arts-based methods

Hess and Cook (2007) report the use of digital photography in three projects with children. Each was designed to understand more about how children experience their worlds.

Challenges of the drawings and arts-based methods

Challenges of using drawings is that they can be hard to know how to analyse and it can be difficult to know to what extent children and young people’s own ideas have been captured; drawings can be copied from peers or reflect what a child thinks the adults would like, rather than their own ideas. This tool will not suit all situations and age groups, as some children will enjoy drawing, whilst others might feel that they lack drawing skills or that they are ‘too old’. Such activities tend to work best in more structured settings, such as schools.

Drawing of pencils
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