Creating Authentic Engagement in Online Study Participation for Children


This article describes methods used in an online study of children’s question-asking and exploration. A question asking task and two curiosity measures were conducted with young children via Zoom to assess children’s creative information seeking using questions and exploration of different topics and levels of uncertainty. We describe the unique challenges related to doing research with young children and the general methodology of collecting data with children in person and online. A general overview of the methods includes a discussion of the importance of operationalizing variables to design measures and provides three examples of measures and how they were developed to assess children’s information seeking and curiosity. We then describe the specific challenges experienced when collecting data online rather than in person, how we attempted to address these challenges, and more general lessons learned from doing online data collection. Specifically, we discuss the importance of children’s comfort during research and how to build rapport with children during online data collection to encourage natural responses. We also describe ways of designing research materials to be most engaging for online use, affordances that using digital measures provide, and important considerations for developing more general protocols for collecting data with young children, such as ways of avoiding or addressing technological issues and limiting the influence of parent interactions during data collection. While not all research is possible to conduct online, our measures were successful, and we describe lessons learned from our experience that can inform future similar work.

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