Young researchers' use of the 'Our story' app to create multimedia experiential research narratives: putting 'me' back into accounts of research process

Kerawalla, Lucinda (2014). Young researchers' use of the 'Our story' app to create multimedia experiential research narratives: putting 'me' back into accounts of research process. In: ICERI2014 Proceedings, pp. 5726–5734.



The Open University's Children's Research Centre (CRC) supports young people to carry out their own social research. To date, the young peoples’ research reports have taken a linear form congruent with the positivist approach that Kaplan (1964) describes as “the reconstructed logic” of science (p. 10), and include sections such as ‘introduction’, ‘methodology’ and ‘results’. As such, these reports present a pristine version of research process that “hide[s] from view the real inner drama” of scientific research (Bargar & Duncan, 1982, p. 2). This means that the subjective experience of conducting research, such as the details of what drove the researcher on through the inevitable ups and downs, the sense of achievement, and what they think they gained from the experience, is rendered invisible and unavailable to the wider audience. This paper reports on an innovative approach to engaging young researchers in the creation and sharing of multimodal experiential research narratives using the iPad app ‘Our Story’ (OS).

OS was made by the Open University and supports the creation of narratives by requiring the user to upload photographs into a storyboard and then annotate each photograph with audio and/or text. The current research question is: To what extent does a multimedia narrative format encourage young researchers to create and share stories that document their experiential research journeys?

Twelve young researchers aged 12 years old at a school in England, attended an after school ‘social researchers’ club supported by the author and the school librarian. The theme of their research was ‘libraries and literature’ and they chose their own topic and research question within this theme. Some young researchers were loaned an iPad, shown how to use the features of OS and advised to use it to create research stories of their choice. A mixed methods approach was adopted, which involved analysing the content of the stories and carrying out thematic analysis of interviews carried out with the young researchers.

Analysis suggests that participants created ‘hybrid’ stories that contained details about some of the following: research process, tools and activities; research teaching sessions; the personal research experience (e.g. joy at completing data collection); the social nature of research (e.g. photos of friends who provided helped); the research site (e.g. descriptions of the local library); raw data (audio recordings of interviews); and photos of the young researchers themselves. The hybrid nature of the stories suggests that the socio-emotional aspects of conducting research were important to these young researchers and that they wanted to communicate these to their intended audiences; indeed, some of the stories contained mainly these details. The participants suggested also that OS should support video files and that exemplar experiential stories are made available for guidance and ideas.

It can be concluded that OS has the potential to support the creation of experiential research stories by young researchers and hence make the ‘real inner drama’ of conducting research more visible and available as a learning resource for their less experienced peers.

Bargar & Duncan (1982) Cultivating creative endeavor in doctoral research. Journal of Higher Education, 52(1), 1–31.

Kaplan, A. (1964) The conduct of Inquiry. Scranton: Chandler Publishing Co.

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