Research with children in rural China: Reflecting on the process

Shuang Wu, Viviene E. Cree*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conducting research with children raises significant ethical and practical difficulties; when the context is rural China, where there has been no tradition of qualitative research with children, these become especially heightened. This article, written by a student and her supervisor, introduces a pilot study conducted in 2018 as part of a Master’s degree programme at a Scottish university. The study was designed to trial two child participatory methods with the aim of scaling these up in a full PhD project; the research focused on the experiences and needs of ‘left-behind children’ in a town of South-West China. The study threw up a number of challenges for the student which are explored in the article. Whilst not wishing to over-claim on the basis of a student project, we suggest that these highlight the reality that methodologies and ‘good practice’ guidelines developed in a ‘Western’/’minority world’ context may not always be wholly compatible with a very different research environment such as this one. This conclusion presents a significant challenge for all those who are conducting research with children in the ‘Global South’/’majority world’, as well as for those who are supporting research students who may experience similar dilemmas in the ‘real world’ of research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Social Work
Early online date14 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jul 2021


  • participatory research
  • China
  • children
  • left-behind children
  • United Nations
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • majority world


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