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This paper reflects on the use of a range of interviewing strategies carried out with 13–14 year olds for a research project about young people's problems and coping strategies. The advantages and disadvantages of using both group and individual interviews with various task-based activities (grouping and ranking exercises, spider diagrams and charts) and stimulus material (problem pages, video clips and common phrases) are examined. The development and use of an innovative technique, the ‘secret box’, is also discussed. The mix of techniques alongside straightforward questioning was designed to offer variety to engage young people's interest, to account for their different preferences, to stimulate discussion about a potentially sensitive topic and to help to lessen the unequal power relationship between the adult researcher and the young participant. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.