Complexities of Researching with Young People 

Editorial team: Dr Paulina Billett (La Trobe University), Dr Justine Humphry (University of Sydney) and Dr Matt Hart (University of Leicester) 

Please send 300 to 500 word abstracts, and a 150 word author biography to Paulina Billett at by January 15, 2018.
In this book, we aim to explore the complexities of researching with young people across disciplines and national contexts. Researching with young people is often as difficult as it is rewarding. Researchers must balance the competing needs of institutions, funding bodies and ethics committees with their own interests, and that of young people. While the majority of ethical questions surrounding research with young people are centred on issues of protection from harm and coercion, we argue that this is only the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’. Rather, the complexities of researching with young people are far more complex and nuanced, with notions such as ‘resilience’, ‘participation’, ‘risk’ and ‘voice’ being some of the key issues that must be attended to as well as the new and varied landscapes of the digital.
We are looking for chapter contributions on the following themes: definitions of youth; consent and ethics; digital research; voice; participation; and the pressures of researching with young people (more information on each of these themes can be found below). We are interested in submissions which discuss the complexities of youth research, rather than submissions which describe ‘how to’ conduct youth research, or the research process itself. Contributions are sought from researchers in the Humanities, Media and Communications, and Social Sciences who currently research with young people in a wide range of national and international contexts. All contributions must be written in English.
Definitions of youth - Youth is not a standalone concept, but a complex system of meanings and inferences about young people and their place in society.  Youth can be defined as a period of semi-dependence which young people pass through prior to the granting of adult status (Furlong and Cartmel, 1997), and it is a term used to describe the complex social, economic and cultural inequalities of one of the most dynamic groups within Western societies. However youth is a Western construct, and as such its meaning has differed between time periods and between cultures. Not surprisingly, defining who a young person is, is not a simple task. Under this theme, we invite contributions which examine the complexities of defining a young person across cultural groups. We also invite contributions which explore the difficulties that arise from attempting to undertake research in settings which may include a multitude of definitions or rejection of this category.
Consent and ethics - Issues of consent and ethics are a key aspect of creating sound youth research. While consent is intrinsically tied to issues of justice, why researchers exclude or include certain populations is at best poorly considered and at worst neglected (McDowell 2001). Much of the reason for this can be seen as stemming from society’s preoccupation with issues of protection, the likelihood of conflicts of interest, and potential harm to young people from unethical research practices, which has led to a standardisation of administrative aspects that influence the research process - including research design and approval at local, state and national levels. Under this theme, we seek contributions which examine the meaning of consent and place it within its larger cultural context. We are particularly interested in submissions that examine paradigms beyond Western constructs of capacity.
Digital - Digital environments call for researchers to develop sensitivity and awareness of how young people’s lives are being performed, recorded, and commodified. While youth in the digital are often sources of public and social anxiety (Hasinoff, 2014), some researchers are pushing back and taking strides to demonstrate the potential benefits young people can leverage through the digital. We seek contributions which explore the theoretical complexities and challenges of digital youth research; particularly around (but not limited to) the ethics of data capture and analysis, new research opportunities using digital tools (for example app-walkthroughs, visualisation, data-mining and scraping); and trends in digital research (such as digital rights for young people, digital influencers and taste-makers; digital capital and inclusion; sexualities, race and gender; and online activisms).

Voice - The theme of young people’s voices can be broken down into two or more interrelated components. Firstly, we are interested in ‘voice’ as a subject of research, to identify and understand how young people’s voices are ‘made’ and ‘heard’, as well as the presentation of young people’s voice as a goal of research. Youth researchers have long sought to explore and prioritise young people’s voices in a context where they have often been relegated to the periphery, or subsumed in adult discourse. Secondly, in researching with young people, it is important to ensure that their voices are genuinely represented, however, this is often not easy to achieve. Youth researchers are at times faced with hurdles which must be overcome, including engaging young people in research, satisfying the requirements of ethics committees, and engaging vulnerable or difficult to reach groups of young people in the research process. The choice of where and who to research with is usually guided by practical aims of the research design and scope. The need to adhere to timelines and budgets can lead researchers to neglect more ‘difficult to engage’ or ‘vulnerable’ groups for more accessible ones in order to expedite their projects, leading to the ‘invisibility’ and ‘muteness’ of some groups. Under this theme, we invite contributions which examine the complexities of researching with difficult to reach or less-accessible groups, and are particularly interested in the complexities of gaining ethical approval to research with these groups.
Participation - There are a number of issues which can be explored under this theme, on the one hand there are the complexities which arise from trying to understand what social, economic, cultural, or political participation means for young people, as well as to balance young people’s participation in research with the needs of the researcher, compliance with ethics committees, and timeline. This can at times lead to projects which are poorly designed and place young people as objects of research, rather than partners in the research process. On the other hand, contributions are sought on work which examines the complexities of using incentives for participation. Many researchers regard the use of incentives as a form of ‘bribery’ to increase participation rates, offering some kind of reward to young people for their contribution while other see it as an important acknowledgement of the time and effort invested by young people.
Pressures of researching with young people - There are a number of pressures involved in researching with young people, such as resource and timeline management, engaging with ethics committees, and the phenomenon of ‘drive-by’ research - particularly with easy to access groups and venues, such as schools. Drive-by research can also take the form of research which in no way elicits future feedback or input from young participants. Under this theme, we seek contributions which explore this complexity and shed some light on how ‘drive-by’ research can be avoided.

Please send 300 to 500 word abstracts, and a 150 word author biography to Paulina Billett at by January 15, 2018.

Authors will be notified whether their proposal has been accepted or declined by February 28, 2018. All chapters will be due for review by July 31, 2018.