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Conducting Better Research: A ‘Young Researcher’s’ Perspective on the Value of Participatory/ Peer Research Jonathan Murphy.

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Presentation on theme: "Conducting Better Research: A ‘Young Researcher’s’ Perspective on the Value of Participatory/ Peer Research Jonathan Murphy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Conducting Better Research: A ‘Young Researcher’s’ Perspective on the Value of Participatory/ Peer Research Jonathan Murphy

2 Student at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland Involved in Participatory Research 2008-2010 Will be talking about experiences we set out in “The Self Conscious Researcher- Post Modern Perspectives of Participatory Research with Young People”- Published in the February edition of FQS.

3 This brief presentation will be mainly anecdotal, reflecting on my own personal experiences and reflections, with a particular focus on research with Children and Young People (CYP) Complex issue- I could not discuss it in an academic manner in 15-20 minutes! I refer you to the cited article in FQS I will be looking at my experiences and will be arguing that Participatory or Peer Research makes sense, that it leads to better research. I fully believe that such research allows academics, policy makers or even commercial organisations (any Moral and Ethical issues aside) to obtain a higher standard of information on their field of study.

4 My Experience with Participatory Research “Attitudes to Difference” Commissioned by the First and Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland Examined the Attitudes of Young People living in Northern Ireland to members of Minority Ethnic Groups Target group was 16-17 year olds Conducted by a Non Governmental Organisation and a joint research initiative between the two universities in Northern Ireland. 17 at the time, in my first of two years of pre-university study. (‘A-Levels’ in the UK) Research was qualitative and involved group discussions with a sample of around 20 young people at a time, and one-to-one interviews with members of Minority Ethnic Groups about their experiences.

5 Motivating Young People to Participate as Peer Researchers Imagine you are 16/17, mildly interested in University, a successful career in… something… that “makes a difference”? School careers service continually reminds you to “build your CV from an early age” You hear that a group of acaemics want researchers aged 16-17… What a brilliant oportunity, must apply for that! BUT…. Like most of these “great opportunities”, you just don’t quite have the motivation to DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT….. Theres so much else to do, homework, friends, TV, still looking for a Part-time job…

6 Motivating Young People to Participate as Peer Researchers Potential Young Researchers were drawn form the schools that provided the research sample, a letter was sent to the relevant member of staff to read to potentially interested groups of students. Even though many do not have the motivation, those who actually have the requisite skills do The rewards are clear: excellent experience to help get into University, the ability to make a difference (in this case, in community relations), it sounds interesting….. However, still need one final ‘PUSH’ Answer: small token amount of money- cash strapped teenagers!!

7 Keeping Motivation in Context Not that the Young Researchers were ‘Mercenary’ in deciding to participate I mentioned earlier that many young people offered the opportunity were not interested. This did not change when, at the end of the letter, the offer of a small sum of money and all travelling expenses was made. The opportunity to participate was genuinely sought by my peers, a key goal in life at that point was being met- self development! But the money meant another goal at that point in our lives was being met. Remember, 16/ 17 year olds, many did not yet have our first part time jobs etc. In short, just needed one short term reason to commit to what we knew would yield long term benefits!

8 Developing a New Resource By the time applications had been received, sorted, and a selection made, the research project had a new resource: 20 young, bright, enthusiastic teenagers! But while all had at least some of the basic skills, and the motivation to learn more, we needed training in specific research skills This two day course, held over two Saturdays, covered confidentiality, chairing focus groups etc We all received a “certificate” from the NGO, useful for showing development when applying to University, jobs By the end of it, there were 20 researchers ready to chair discussions and conduct interviews, with the support and supervision of the adult researchers.

9 Look at some of the conflicts that arose over claims to authority Will also look at how some of them were then resolved First, want to look at the value in this specific instance that Peer Researchers added to the process, to show the one of the basis for these conflicts.

10 Contribution of Peer Researchers Better knowledge of where the subjects were ‘coming from’, what the base point of their opinions were and what the contemporary influences on those opinions were Less ‘threatening’, more open, more approachable than adult researchers- subjects told us more Though we did not carry out research in our own schools, we came from similar communities By being there during the Primary research stage, we were better able, through recollection to ‘translate’ or ‘interpret’ what was said by the Young People during the office based dissemination stage. We weren’t as easily shocked by what our research found, especially when compared to two of the adult researchers.

11 “But we obviously know better….” Queries over the selection procedure on the basis of equality vs. competence What constituted an “offensive opinion” “Its your research, but if you ask me…”- occassionally, an attitude emerged that it was the Adult Researchers problem if the research omitted what we felt were key facts, statistics, or opinions. This was not necessarily productive!

12 Resolving Conflict Group relaxation and discussion of either the problem or something entirely unrelated over coffee or lunch Seems inane, but this group dynamic did prove to be essential for resolving disagreements or removing animosity from conflicts Something I would strongly recommend to anyone thinking of using Participatory Research Often unanimous opinions of the Peer Researchers validated many points that were then accepted by the adult researchers Acceptance and understanding that the professional researchers, who represented the two bodies commissioned to write the report, had the final say. An Employer- Employee, albeit one were mutual respect thrived, appeared to emerge by the end of the process.

13 Reflecting on Attitudes to Difference Much discussion in academia over ‘claims to authority’, ‘rights’ of peer researchers to control process or the lack of those rights Much of this stems from notions that a group has rights over research that is about them. Perfectly valid point, and not one that I personally have enough experience to discredit. My experience shows that an approach that works is to make it quite clear who is in charge from the very start. I would like to set out the basis for approaching Participatory Research with the question: “How can Participatory Research help me to Conduct Better Research?”

14 Conducting Better Research Peer Researchers can help to ‘reach out’ to the subject- they make the research more familiar and less ‘strange’ They can relate better to the subject than more professional researchers necessarily can. So, regardless of anything else, Participatory research can help you to better gather your initial qualitative information. They can also help to design the research, or to at least provide feedback on it, to make it easier to use for the researcher, and to ask the same questions in a better way, in order to gain the exact information that you are seeking. When considered as employees who have specific, specialist skills to offer, I feel that they can make an invaluable contribution.

15 Conducting Better Research “The Self Conscious Researcher- Post Modern Perspectives of Participatory Research with Young People”- McCarten, Schubotz and Murphy Forum: Qualitative Social Research Vol. 13 No 1 (2012)

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