In this paper we present our experiences of conducting focus groups with young people as part of a participatory approach to research design and participant recruitment. The research is a prospective, 10-year, qualitative, longitudinal project investigating young people's daily lives, relationships, and identities, and the ways these change over time. It adopts a multi-method approach in which each participant has a choice about which methods to be involved with. Part of the project planning and recruitment was completed through focus groups held in schools across metropolitan and rural West Yorkshire with young people aged 13. The focus groups enabled us to recruit participants from a variety of backgrounds. They were also an important medium through which to elicit the views of young people (which were perceptively and constructively critical) about project design, methods development, and dissemination events. The paper focuses on what we learnt from these focus groups and considers the value of engaging participants in designing qualitative research.