Getting to the Point with Just 6 Questions

Are you interested in learning about research that matters to youth work, but find you never have time to get around to it? 

YouthREX’s mission is to make research evidence and evaluation practices accessible and relevant to Ontario’s grassroots youth sector. Accessibility and relevance are two guiding lights for our knowledge mobilization team. In order to support our mission, we have created a variety of products, but I want to highlight our Research Summaries here.

We know that research and literature reviews are not the primary task of grassroots youth workers who are often wearing many diverse hats to keep their organization effective, efficient, and alive. Youth workers’ first commitments are to the youth you are working with. There often isn’t time to read 30+ page articles and then sift through and make meaning of them!

That said, we also believe that being aware of emerging and established bodies of research can certainly enhance our programs and contribute to our work with youth. This is why we created our Just 6 Questions series.

Just 6 Questions are two-page single-source plain language resources that summarize research or evaluation that can support youth work practice and programs.

The Process: We identify recent and youth sector relevant research and reports that we assess for quality and relevance to youth work. We then select resources to summarize and answer Just 6 Questions:

      1. What is this research about?
      2. Where did this research take place?
      3. Who is this research about?
      4. How was this research done?
      5. What are the key findings?
      6. Why does this research matter for youth work?

The 6 Questions we ask allow us to get to the key take away points of the research. We cut through academic jargon, translate the findings into accessible language, and highlight how the research matters to youth work.

Here’s how you can use one of our research summaries.  Say you are working with street-involved youth and you want to know best practices for harm reduction and promoting reintegration. There is a systematic review of research on this very topic. Great! Except, the review is 155 pages long and written in very technical academic research language.

What we do is distill the findings to two pages.

The summary takes between 5 – 10 minutes to read. It describes the diverse range of services and interventions available for street-involved youth. When describing your work, you can situate it within this range.

From the summary, you can see that the research reviewed was only from high-income countries similar to Canada. If you work in Ontario, this means that the research reviewed comes from a relatively comparable context.

By including the age range of youth involved in the study, you can further assess if the findings will be relevant to your work. The study is a systematic review, which means it compares and combines multiple comparable research studies. One advantage of a systematic review is that you get a larger sample size which allows the researchers to make stronger claims about how generalizable their findings are. If you are interested systematic reviews, and have the time, check out the Cochrane Database.

This review found that it is hard to generalize across contexts. This is a common finding of systematic reviews especially in the social sciences. The study found that research that tests a theory rather than responds to what is happening in everyday practices and processes fails to produce “useable” knowledge.  Therefore, they recommend the development of programs and services that are contextualized to meet the needs of the specific youth you are working with – rather than implement a generic service model.  The researchers also recommend the inclusion of youth in the design of both interventions and evaluation research.

After reading this summary, you can deepen your program rationale for highly responsive and customized interventions with street-involved youth. You may also want to work on documenting your practices and then sharing it so that others doing similar work can learn with you. By reading our summary and learning about this research, you can reflect on your current model and consider how and if you want to change how you/your program is working.

As evidence-informed practice becomes expected across the sector, it is essential that the grassroots youth sector is equipped to join the conversation with research that is relevant to our practices and programs. Our research summaries are intended to support youth sector workers to quickly access research related to your work, which you can then use to inform ongoing program design and development.

If you don’t see a research summary that meets your needs in the knowledge hub, let us know! We’ll find research on the topic or issue, ask Just 6 Questions, and get back to you.

If you are a researcher and you are producing research that has practice and/or policy relevance to the field, please connect with us. We’d love to work with you to increase the accessibility of your research.

Connect with us by e-mailing info@youthrex.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Rebecca Houwer
YouthREX Manager of Knowledge Exchange