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Exploring innovative methodologies for child-centric consumer research

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Purpose - We discuss the use of creative qualitative techniques for research studies focusing on young participants and encourage the development of what we term a "child-centric" approach. We hope that by sharing our experiences we can help move forward the discussion of child-centric approaches and methods, providing a useful starting point for researchers considering conducting qualitative research with children, and food for thought for those experienced at researching the lives of young consumers. Design/methodology/approach - We begin our paper with a general overview of approaches to childhood as a social category, discuss methodological approaches to research with children and review the literature that informed our methodological approach. In the second part of the paper we focus on an empirical investigation, outlining a methodology with which we sought to embrace children's active participation. Our qualitative approach incorporates the following: quasi-ethnographic methods; interviews; projective techniques and photography. Findings - It is suggested that by shifting our research focus from a top-down perspective into one that embraces childhood as a culture in its own right, we can greet children within their own language, using terminology they understand, and ultimately providing the context for a more fruitful and exciting data collection process. Our research design was effective in providing children with a voice with which to relate their experiences, and in this way we saw ourselves as facilitators, letting children tell us their own story in their own words. Originality/value - We argue that it is only by recognising and taking on board some of the recommendations that have emerged from the debate concerning research with children that consumer researchers will discover a fuller appreciation of the participants we seek to understand. Lessons from this approach can also be fruitfully used to enhance the experiences of research involving participants other than children who should also benefit from more participant-centred research designs.
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Keywords: Children (Age Groups); Consumer Research; Ethnography; Photography; Qualitative Research

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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