Conducting qualitative research can help you gain deeper insight on your research project. Depending on what your research is or what insights you aim to find, working with kids may be the best way to go. Children can offer their honest thoughts and feelings for various topics.
When interviewing children, there are many variables to keep in mind, including their age, background and social skill levels. Below are some tips to help ease them into the research process.
1. Use clear and concise language
When working with younger children, its best to avoid any tricky language. They might not fully understand the questions being asked or might be intimidated if they are too intricate. Be sure to ask one question at a time instead of questions with multiple parts that require longer answers or explanations.
2. Create a connection
Connecting with children increases their comfort levels. Researchers should avoid using a monotoned voice or formal language when interacting with younger children. Instead, researchers should adjust how they speak and get to know them better before the session begins.
3. Treat the interview like a game
Children may be more at ease if you explain the research process with game-like terminology. In a Quirk’s article by Monica Belmana titled, “Conducting marketing research with kids: Get on their level” she encourages researchers to introduce simple game-like exercises to create an environment children are familiar with. This allows children to feel comfortable enough to participate in the interview. Setting up “rules” can further help them understand what is being asked of them.
Belmana notes however that researchers should be careful to not let children get carried away by treating the qualitative session as only a game. Children may offer answers they assume researchers want to hear to keep the “game” going. Be conscious of the answers they are giving to make sure they are staying on track.
4. Offer answer options
If your research project allows, it is often best to provide children a limited number of answers to your questions. Belmana encourages visual stimuli or response cards for children ages 8-11. These options can offer you quick insight and can also speed up the interview process.
5. Be aware of attention spans
When setting up your research project, schedule short sessions and include breaks. It is important to remember that young children have shorter attention spans. Conducting a long session may lead them to be easily distracted and burn out before the end, resulting in subpar data quality. If you notice a child losing interest or motivation, consider scheduling a second round.
6. Include parents
The article “Parents as partners in kid/teen research” by Pam Goldfarb Liss, encourages researchers to involve parents in their research with children. Parents who are involved in the process can help guide them with the activities prepared. Children may feel more comfortable if a parent is participating with them instead of only watching them interact with the researcher or verbally encouraging them. Parent engagement can lead to more organic answers.
If research does not allow in-session parent participation, they can still assist in the research process by offering context and background information. Goldfarb Liss encourages researchers to ask parents about any relevant information including family finances and history. She also suggests organizing a small outing for the parent and child to gather more data outside of the session. These outings can be a trip to the grocery store, park or mall depending on the research project.
7. Offer parental incentives
If parents are participating or helping throughout the research process, Goldfarb Liss encourages researchers to offer a small parental stipend to express gratitude. Involving parents can save you time and money. An example Goldfarb Liss offers is no-show rates. When working with young adults who can drive, requiring a parent can reduce the number of no-shows and can smoothen the overall process.
8. Take advantage of technology
It is likely that the children you are working with already use technology on a day-to-day basis. Incorporating technology can offer more activity options and a remote option if children cannot travel to the research location.
9. Understand cultural differences
Following off the previous tip, do not assume all children are able to use technology. In the article “Global research with kids requires nuanced, culturally-aware approaches” by Bianca Abulafia and Sarah Serbun, they establish that most children in the U.S. are comfortable using technology to communicate with others. Researchers should be aware of the differences regarding technology when conducting research with children outside of the U.S. Not all children will be comfortable, allowed or fully understand how to use technology.
According to Abulafia and Serbun, understanding the culture the children grew up in is crucial when conducting research abroad. Is the country you’re in known for its individualist culture or its collectivist culture? Answering this question can help you adjust the way you approach your qualitative session.
10. Incorporate visuals
Abulafia and Serbun encourage researchers to include visual imagery with their prompts to allow children to show and tell you what they mean. Visual prompts can help children verbalize their thoughts if they are struggling to form a full answer and can increase their interest in the session.
11. Be aware of your team and setting
Having the appropriate research setting allows children to best express their thoughts and experiences. Questioning them about creativity in a formal office space will lead to answers that lack depth. Matching the environment to the questions can lead to deeper answers. Asking them to do an activity while you ask questions can also help them with their comfort level.
Evaluating your research team is as important as your setting. Be aware of who is involved in the process, how they are dressed and how they are speaking to the children. A research team that can adjust the way they approach each child will lead to success.
Achieving a successful qualitative research session
Conducting qualitative research with children may seem daunting. You may not know where to start or how to direct session activities but incorporating these tips can help facilitate the research process.