We are a unique group of researchers made up of service users, survivors, academics, project co-ordinators and artists from the Centre for Society and Mental Health and the Bethlem Gallery.

We want to make research methods accessible to the whole community.

To ensure this happens, we have co-produced this online Research Methods Toolkit so you have access to high-quality, engaging sources which discuss research design, ethics, qualitative and quantitative methods, analysis, knowledge exchange and much more. We hope our Research Methods Toolkit will inspire and help you to produce your own research in the field of society and mental health by pursuing questions and problems that are important to you and your community.

The development of our Research Methods Toolkit is rooted in key Design Justice principles that put ‘people who are normally marginalised by design’ at the centre of capacity strengthening and research. It uses a collaborative and creative approach to ‘address the deepest challenges our communities face’ (see Design Justice Network). From the beginning, we involved potential Research Methods Toolkit users through focus group discussions, content development and needs assessments. This involvement helped us create a website that is easy to navigate and accessible to people from different backgrounds.

Our approach to Co-Production follows the 4Pi framework outlined by the National Service User Network. 4Pi stands for principles, purpose, presence, process and impact, and aims to meaningfully involve people with lived experience to make a difference. One difference our group wants to make is to give people working in mental health and beyond the tools to shape research agendas and data generation, and to influence policy.

We believe no one group should have the monopoly on what questions to ask or what data to collect, or control how to analyse findings and disseminate insights. Different communities need to work together with access to relevant tools and know-how. We hope our Toolkit will bring communities and organisations together to learn about methods, conduct research, and exchange knowledge in areas important to them.

The Research Methods Toolkit is intentionally ‘in progress’. We will be adding new methods, resources and tools on an ongoing basis, in collaboration with our toolkit users. We invite you to get in touch, ask us questions, make suggestions and give comments to help us understand what works well and what can be improved or expanded.

The Artwork

Why have we used abstract art instead of photos portraying people as they go about their research?  We had several reasons for commissioning artist Tony James Allen.

Firstly, we wanted to get away from corporate stock photography and co-produce imagery with the creativity of service users/survivors. We were drawn to Tony’s artwork as it reminded us of the different facets of research: broad brush stroke, texture, fine grained detail, composition, merging colours that appear to have their own life, surprises, and joy. Like research, his paintings invite the viewer to both take a step back to grasp the ‘big picture’ and to lean in to understand nuances and connections.

Engaging with Tony’s work made us question what research is in the first place. Research, in our view, is systematic inquiry into a conundrum, a puzzle, a problem. It involves the collection and analysis of data which comes in many shapes and forms – numbers, stories, photos, music, maps and, well, art. Art, in this context, is not necessarily an illustration of something (although it can be); it creates, comments on and analyses realities and life worlds. It can be data and, therefore, research.

Who then is a researcher? We agreed from the very beginning of the project that we can all be researchers. We don’t need to look or behave in a certain way, use the same tools, or create the same kinds of outputs. So, rather than portraying people and somehow suggesting a typical ‘researcher look’ as part of the Toolkit, we wanted to create an open and welcoming space where everyone can feel they belong and develop their projects. Art can do this.

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