Finding Nexus: connecting youth work and research practices

Sinead Gormally, Annette Coburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Participation in educational and social research helps to develop understanding of how young people learn and to consider wider aspects of their lives to enable their voices to be heard and acted upon. Research also facilitates the articulation and sharing of methodologies across a range of professional practices. We assert that theory and practice in educational youth work offers a position of strength from which to undertake research. In making this assertion, we suggest cross-disciplinarity between youth work and research practices in order to build research mindedness among youth workers who, through this nexus, are well-placed to engage in practice based research. Drawing on discourses about young people, youth work and youth participation, we identify five elements of youth work practice that can be aligned with research processes: reflexivity; positionality and bias; insider cultural competence; rapport and trust; power relationships. The article examines how these elements are present in youth work and a range of research settings. We identify youth work methods and dispositions as enhancing research capacity which could also be useful in building participatory research methods in disciplinary areas beyond education. Yet, in making these connections, we also identify a range of factors that show this nexus as complex and contestable. Reflecting on the lessons learned from our experiences as youth work practitioners and academic researchers, we propose that finding nexus, which in this instance is between youth work and research paradigms, could inform educational research practices and contributes to developing a meaningful praxis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-885
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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