This paper describes the trend apparent in nursing and other practice disciplines towards more participative and collaborative methods of enquiry as exemplified by action research. In so doing it notes the conceptual similarities between action research, change theory and quality initiatives. Particular attention is focused on the need to establish the basic values which provide the impetus and direction for subsequent activity. The difficulties this may pose are illustrated by reference to the application in two continuing care hospital wards for elderly patients of a checklist operationalizing a typology of care. A mechanism to facilitate and make explicit the values underpinning care in any given environment is suggested.