The aim of this study is to identify conditions for research as part of professional development in general practice. Based on the work of Andrew Abbott, who studied the dynamics of professional development, five conditions were identified. These are: the creation of associations among professionals; control of work; the establishment of specialised education; the development of professional knowledge; and the creation of organised structures for professional work. Two countries with a well-established research tradition in general practice (the UK and the Netherlands) and one country where GP research development is still limited (Spain) were evaluated on the basis of these conditions. The conditions identified as favourable were as follows: the existence of a scientific association; a peer-reviewed journal; a defined population resulting in a population denominator for practices; a gatekeeping system; chairs and departments of general practice at universities; the integration of education centres and research centres; GPs working in group practices or health centres; a certain degree of independence from the Ministry of Health; and financial support for practicing GPs to conduct research activities. We showed that most conditions for the successful scientific progress of general practice in Spain are present. However there is still a gap between academia and general practice and a lack of research organisation and support.