Designing the research

choose a research topic | decide on a research question and define key terms | design a robust research project | choose which research method(s) to use

How to choose your research topic

You may have recruited young researchers to work on a particular research topic, in which case skip on to the next section. Otherwise, the group will need to agree the focus of the research project. You could give the group free rein to choose any topic that matters to them, or you may want to set some parameters. For example, you might ask the team to generate ideas for research topics that would help to improve their school life (broad parameters) or the way they are taught Maths (narrow parameters). One way to do this is to have a group brainstorm and write down everyone’s suggestions on a flipchart or whiteboard. Alternatively, everyone could write their suggestions on post it notes. The young researchers could then vote on their preferred topic by a show of hands, or by putting stickers next to their favourite topics. If the group struggles to think of research topics, it might find it useful to look at other young people’s research for ideas on what is possible. Alternatively, you could structure discussion around what the group would like to see changed (for example, the quality of science teaching or the range of after school activities available to them), and derive your research topic from this.

Some topics may be inappropriate or impractical for the group to research, and you will need to help the group understand why this is this case. Try asking: ‘How could we find evidence to answer this question?’ This type of discussion can be a valuable part of young people’s development as researchers.