What is research?

Recently I read some thoughts about research and that has inspired me to reflect on my interest in research and its relationship to practice. 

I am, of course, an old age psychiatrist by background. When I did my psychiatry training we had a “research day” which meant different things to different people, but was probably the start of my relationship with research, as I thought I had to produce something with the time dedicated to it (whatever it was!) But I’ve never “done” “proper research”, the sort that is properly scientific, privileged and attracts lots of money. What I suppose I have done, is constantly questioned and reflected on aspects of practice, talked with others, and grown enthusiastic about almost everything. I like counting things too though. And I like writing, which helps me engage in more dialogue, find more interesting people to collaborate with, and co-evolve interesting intriguing ideas further. I like teaching too but that’s only another way of developing ideas and learning. 

I trained in systemic therapy some years ago and have continued to practise family, couple and systemic psychotherapy: that training plus my ongoing practice has influenced the directions I’ve gone in. I prefer to work and write with people and see my work as co-created and co-evolving and the people involved are collaborators, maybe also “participants”.

I’m linked with the Centre for Ageing Studies at the University of Chester now and I regard my endeavours as broadly systemic in terms of being curious about people and relationships in lots of different contexts: recent examples might be domestic homicide and dementia. But then I’m not properly systemic either!

I suppose I might describe my concept of research as a broad range of trying to understand activities – I see it as an embedded part of practice. Surely we should be constantly reflecting on what we do and trying to understand it and do it better? I can’t understand (although at the same time I can) why people see practice and research as separate entities when they’re so closely intertwined. If people don’t think that what I do is proper research, then that’s fine.

For me it’s enough to find interesting people, questions, ideas etc and pursue them; for me to learn and share multi-directional learning; for me to be enthusiastic and share that enthusiasm with others who might hopefully share their enthusiasms with me. 

Just do it!

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