Engaging Young People
By Gemma Gibson
Kim Madden and Juping Yu from the University of Glamorgan shared their experiences from two Beacon for Wales funded research projects which aimed to engage specifically with young people. The first project was an online based discussion carried out over a three week period with a view to ascertain the ideas, opinions and feelings about some health related topics of 13 people aged between 16-19. The second project was more direct and interactive, aiming to engage with and encourage young people to have fun with science with a specific focus on genetics. Both projects came with a vast list of potential issues with engaging young people in different kinds of research such as how to motivate the young people taking part, how to gain their confidence and trust in what you, as the researcher, are asking of them, and more practical issues like the reliability of those taking part, parental consent and ensuring that your research methods are age and group appropriate.
With regards to recruitment and the reliability of the participants, Kim and Juping offered some practical solutions such as establishing contact with adults and various youth groups/organisations who might be able to put you in more direct contact with potential participants. Over sampling of participants is also recommended as very often those who agree initially may decide to drop out later. Finally, giving the youths incentives to take part in your research would also be a good idea; incentives such as gift vouchers or money for taking part or even simply promoting the benefits of taking part such ‘improving your CV’ or simply ‘increase your confidence’ can boost the chances of your participants remaining keen. Practical exercises, experiments and games are excellent methods for gaining research data and engaging with a younger spectrum of participants as it keeps their attention and enthusiasm for the task at a high level.
It is imperative that every element of any research carried out with young people is planned impeccably and imaginatively. While the potential issues created by engaging with young people can be higher and more problematic than when working with adults, the results can often be more rewarding and definitely worth the effort!