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Researching drinking “with” young people: a palette of methods

Samantha Wilkinson (School of Science and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Catherine Wilkinson (Faculty of Health and Social Care, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 5 March 2018




The purpose of this paper is to outline a study characterised by “pockets” of co-production and argue for the benefits of offering young people a palette of interdisciplinary methods to “opt into”, giving participants the opportunity to discuss their drinking practices and experiences “on their own terms”.


In total, 40 young people, aged 15-24 years, from the suburban case study locations of Chorlton and Wythenshawe, Manchester, UK, were recruited for multi-stage qualitative research. The participants were presented with a suite of both long-standing and innovative methods that they could “opt into”, including: interviews, peer interviews, diaries, mobile phone interviews, text messaging and participant observation.


This paper shows that both long-standing and innovative methods have their own individual strengths for researching into young people’s alcohol consumption practices and experiences. Yet, each of the methods utilised in this study also had specific drawbacks for researching substance use. Offering a palette of methods for participants to “opt into” was thus beneficial in: offsetting the weaknesses of other methods; triangulating the study findings; and enabling participants to communicate with the researcher in culturally credible ways.


By offering an honest account about the successes and failures of deploying a range of methods when exploring young people’s drinking practices and experiences, this paper is valuable for researchers in, and beyond, the field of substance use, seeking to broaden their methodological toolkit.



This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant No. ES/J500094/1) (Samantha Wilkinson) and Alcohol Research UK Postgraduate Research Studentship (Grant No. RS 12/02) (name removed for anonymity). The authors declare no conflict of interests.


Wilkinson, S. and Wilkinson, C. (2018), "Researching drinking “with” young people: a palette of methods", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 6-16.



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