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Past event Part of series: Researching Youth – Methods Seminar Series

Running focus groups online and offline

Online registration has now closed, please email to register.

This seventh session in our Researching Youth Seminar series will explore the ways that researchers have ‘pivoted’ their focus group methods to undertake focus groups online during the pandemic. We discuss the challenges, opportunities and learnings from focus groups conducted online. The speakers for this event will include:

Benjamin Hanckel will share his reflections of undertaking online focus groups with young people across two projects since the pandemic began. This includes a national project with young people who are sexuality and gender diverse, as well as an urban project examining young people’s experiences of supporting friends experiencing mental health distress. This presentation will reflect on the focus groups undertaken across these two projects, and the benefits and challenges of conducting focus groups online, particularly around issues that are stigmatised and marginalised in mainstream society. The paper will explore the ways focus groups sought to centre young people’s agency and comfort when participating in focus groups. In doing so the presentation will consider the ways online focus groups can provide spaces for increased agency in the research fieldwork undertaken. The paper asks to what extent this created safe(r) spaces for focus group participants to participate and share their experiences, what measures enabled and constrained this, and what was afforded by using online platforms vis-à-vis offline focus groups.

Katherine Smith will share reflections on doing focus group methods with young people online during the pandemic, and the various impacts this had in (in)equalities in young people’s engagement. Reflecting upon the work of the ‘Making Votes at 16 Work in Wales’ project with 16- and 17-year-olds across Wales in 2021, this paper reflects upon the methodological benefits and challenges associated with conducting online focus groups, with a particular emphasis upon the impact of online vs. face-to-face focus groups upon different inequalities in research participation.
Following these short presentations, there will be space for event attendees to share questions, ideas and their own approaches to talking and listening to young people.


10:00 Welcome & BERA Introduction
Dr Benjamin Hanckel, University Western Sydney
10:05 Young people’s engagement in research: challenges and lessons from conducting focus groups with young people online
Katherine Smith, Nottingham Trent University 
10:20 Navigating space(s) and enacting agency: Reflecting on young people’s participation in online focus groups
Dr Benjamin Hanckel, University Western Sydney
10:50 Provocation
10:55 Discussion in breakout rooms
11:30 Event Close


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Speakers & Chairs

Profile picture of Benjamin Hanckel
Benjamin Hanckel, Dr

Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University

Dr Benjamin Hanckel (he/him) is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. Benjamin’s research examines youth health and wellbeing, social inequalities in health, and social change. His work...

Profile picture of Katherine Smith
Katherine Smith

Nottingham Trent University

Katherine Smith has experience of working in youth participation both through research and in the youth work sector. She has worked on research projects in the UK and Europe on youth political participation and inequalities. In 2020 she obtained...