This paper raises some issues for discussion and debate concerning the nature of research within a mental health setting. Research, no matter what form it takes, is always an intervention. Sensitivity to various concerns surrounding research is required of the mental health worker. Participatory research, which is seen as empowering participants, has become popular in mental health programmes. Attention needs to be paid however, to the meaning of participation and the process of decision-making. Researchers are often uncomfortable with shedding their “objective informer” stance and adopting a position that requires social action. Some of this has to do with the epistemological view taken by the researcher. This paper suggests that the knowledge produced in research is a social construction created in interaction between the researcher and participants and has a multiplicity of potential meanings. The instrumental, conceptual and persuasive uses of research are discussed, and two intervention-type research procedures (needs assessment and evaluation) are critically reviewed It is concluded that research, as with all other interventions, should be carefully planned, implemented, monitored and evaluated
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