This paper discusses the concept of practice-near research in terms of the emotional and epistemological challenges that arise from the researcher coming 'near' enough to other people for psychological processes to ensue. These may give rise in the researcher to confusion, anxiety and doubt about who is who and what is what; but also to the possibility of real emotional and relational depth in the research process. Using illustrations from three social work doctoral research projects undertaken by students at the Tavistock Clinic and the University of East London the paper examines four themes that seem to the author to be central to meaningful practice-near research undertaken in a spirit of true emotional and epistemological open-mindedness: the smell of the real; losing our minds; the inevitability of personal change; and the discovery of complex particulars. \u
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