The Self-Conscious Researcher—Post-Modern Perspectives of Participatory Research with Young People


  • Claire McCartan Queen’s University
  • Dirk Schubotz Queen’s University
  • Jonathan Murphy



peer research, power, social action, participatory methods


Research in young people by young people is a growing trend and considered a democratic approach to exploring their lives. Qualitative research is also seen as a way of redistributing power; with participatory research positioned by many as a democratic paradigm of qualitative inquiry. Although participatory research may grant a view on another world, it is fraught with a range of relationships that require negotiation and which necessitate constant self-reflection. Drawing on experiential accounts of participatory research with young people, this paper will explore the power relationship from the perspective of the adult researcher, the young peer researcher and also that of the researched. It will explore the self-conscious exchange of power; and describe how it is relinquished and reclaimed with increasing degrees of compliance as confidence and security develops. Co-authored by a peer researcher and adult researchers, this paper will illustrate a range of practical examples of participatory research with young people, decode the power struggle and consider the implications. It will argue that although the initial stages of the research process are artificial, self-conscious and undemocratic it concludes that the end may justify the means with the creation of social agency knowledge, experience and reality.



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Author Biographies

Claire McCartan, Queen’s University

Claire McCARTAN is Research Assistant at the Institute of Child Care Research at Queen's University.

Dirk Schubotz, Queen’s University

Dr Dirk SCHUBOTZ is Director of Young Life and Times at ARK, a joint initiative between Queen's University and the University of Ulster.

Jonathan Murphy

Jonathan Murphy is a peer researcher, he recently completed his "A" Level examinations, and started university in autumn 2010. He has been involved in a number of peer research studies with ARK and the National Children's Bureau NI.




How to Cite

McCartan, C., Schubotz, D., & Murphy, J. (2012). The Self-Conscious Researcher—Post-Modern Perspectives of Participatory Research with Young People. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 13(1).