Tips for youth led research

The Young Researcher Network are looking to create a real change in the way research on issues for young people takes place.

Rather than imposing adult frameworks and structures on the challenges young people face today, they're building the capacity for young people to be researchers themselves, and to use rigorous research methods to support moves to create change.

They've started blogging over here and to help welcome them to the social media space I thought I would capture and share a quick interview with my friend and colleague Sarah Schulman, who has been responsible for a number of fantastic youth led research projects in the US.

Help the Young Researcher Network find resources for teaching online research skills…

Young Researcher NetworkThe Young Researcher Network have just launched their programme of basic training for their network of 15 youth-led research projects (I created some resources for their launch conference in December last year) – and they're planning what training will come next. So far, with help from the Centre for Social Action they're going to be looking at:

  • the research process;
  • finding focus and defining a research question;
  • identifying a methodology;
  • considering the ethical implications of research.

But Darren and Antoinette from the Young Researcher Network also want to think about delivering training and support in online research methods for young people and I thought some readers here might be able to help them out with pointers to good resources, or some tips and tricks? They ask:

If you're a young person, perhaps as a young researcher, have you had any good training in how to use the internet well? Or have you just always known how to make use of the internet? Do you think you're an expert searcher – or are there things you want to know about?

And if you're involved in research – are there any good resources you can recommend for teaching good online research skills to the google generation, and supporting young people in online research?

If you think you could help – do drop them a comment on this post on their new blog – particularly as they're only just taking their first steps into the blosophere…

One page guide: online surveys

Online surveysI wrote this one page guide on running an online survey in response to a suggestion from Damien at ChangeMakers Virtual Volunteering programme, and to go towards a section on online consultation and participation I've been putting together for Participation Works.

You can download the guide for printing here (PDF), or for editing here (Word doc).

The guide gives an overview of setting up and running an online survey with The sharp-eyed reader will notice that in fact the screen-shot in the guide is of a SurveyMonkey survey. This is no particular reason for this other than I had that particular survey open at the time. And it shows diversity.

As with all the guides in this series, it is aimed at someone who has perhaps heard of online surveys (or blogs, rss and wikis etc.), but doesn't really know what they have to offer or how to get started. The guide is designed to at least show that it's not that scary – and that these online tools have real practical applications.

I'm planning to experiment with some more 'platform agnostic' guides in the near future – but so far I've found that because every provider names things slightly differently ('analyse responses', 'create report' etc.) it gets quite difficult to create something that will help a new user feel secure rather than worried…

Attachment: Online Surveys.pdf
Attachment: Online Surveys.doc

The statistical invisibility of children and young people

Age Group on surveys

How different is a 6 year old from a 15 year old?

And how different is a 36 year old from a 45 year old?

You will probably agree with me that the difference in the first case is a lot more significant than that in the second.

So how come the 36 year old and 45 year old are likely to find themselves getting their own age brackets on many surveys (are you aged: 25 – 35?, 36 – 45?, 46 – 55? etc.) when the 6 year old and 15 year old will most likely find themelves lumped together a in the 0 – 19 bracket?

Ok. Here are some possible reasons:

Image: 'clipboard' - #1: Relevance . We don't generally get 6 year olds to fill in surveys. And indeed, if your survey is about insurance product choice then I would suggest you're right to avoid burdening a child with questions about attitudes towards fiscal risk.

However – if you survey is about some relatively universal experience without a legal limit on who might be participating in it – like, for example, spending time in a community space, accessing the internet or feeling save (or not) crossing the road – then perhaps you should be including the 6 year old and certainly the 15 year old, in your survey.

Reason #2: Limited sample. We may suceed in surveying the 6 year old and the 15 year old, (and the 7 through 14 year olds) but we just don't manage to survey all that many of them compared to, for example, the number of 25 – 34 year olds we survey. So we put the 0 – 19 year olds together in a big category to give us a statistically significant group.

Reason #3: Skills. Carrying out a survey with children and young people can require specific skills and training that many researchers may lack.

Reason #4: Consent and ethics. There may be questions around the capacity of children and young people to give informed consent to taking part in a survey, and about whether the survey will raise questions on issues children should be protected from thinking about.

Do the reasons cut it?

Not really. Reason #1, 'Relevance', is important. It should tell us that as soon as a survey significantly covers issues that are relevant to young people they should be included in the survey data. Issues #2, 3 & 4 are ones we can and should work around.

Why does it matter?

Without including children and young people in the surveys and datasets being used by policy makers and practioners to make decisions on a day-to-day basis, we make children and young people 'statistically invisible'. And that can have a big (quite possibly very negative) impact on decisions made that affect children and young people's lives.