The practical experience of being a youth researcher

The practical experience of being a youth researcher

By Khalid Khan

Since September 2018, I have been working as a youth researcher with Jigsaw and REUK on the Voices of Refugee Youth research study, in partnership with UNHCR. This study aims to investigate post-primary education for refugee youth. 

As youth researchers, we have a central role in the research study. We have received training in research methods, first conducted in-person at the UNHCR Compound in Peshawar, and then conducted online during the Covid-19 pandemic. Applying this training, we have then led data collection, conducting surveys and interviews with Afghan refugee students from different universities & schools within Pakistan (specifically in Peshawar, in the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Up to this point, we have completed three data collection points and received the same number of training units (with one left to complete this year).

For me, being a youth researcher has been a brand new experience, unlike any other, and I have gained so much over the past three years. The training sessions, provided before data collection, were a new experience for me, as it was my first ever experience in the role of a youth researcher. I am in no doubt that I have learnt a lot about research; for example, I have come to know about the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, and have learnt about research ethics in detail. Also, in the role of a youth researcher I come to know that one has to be flexible for new experiences and challenges. Collecting data has provided some challenges: we have had to deal with people of different cultures, languages and religions. Therefore, I have learnt that while collecting data you need to be understandable and to be clear about the purpose of the research to the participants.

The experience has also taught me several things about the unique role of a youth researcher. Youth researchers should be authentic and realistic as they play the role as a liaison between refugees in their community and stakeholders from the rest of the world. This is because youth researchers record the voices of other young refugees and represent them to the rest of the world – they are therefore a bridge between the refugees and the rest of the research community. Hence, I believe that if one is in the role of a youth researcher, he or she should keep in mind that we are chosen to speak on the behalf of young refugees; now it’s our responsibility to represent their voices in an actual and genuine way to help refugee youth have access to the world to deliver their voices and messages. Being in this role has therefore furnished my communication and writing skills, including how to communicate formally with different people and then transcribe the conversation.

Finally, I believe that a youth researcher has a vital role in the research process, because the overall credibility of the report is dependent on the sources and quality of reporting by the youth researcher during data collection. This has shown me, as a youth researcher, the importance of being realistic, clear and to the point. Research can be valuable not only for the researchers but for other stakeholders (including students, teachers and organisations). Therefore, in my experience as a youth researcher, I have learned the value of good quality of data and the way in which youth researchers can hold a unique role in the research process.