In this article, the authors consider the quality and relevance of current and future medical education research by (1) presenting a framework for medical education research and reviewing basic principles of "good" empirical work, (2) extending the discussion of principles to "best practices," (3) considering the distinctive features of medical education that present challenges to the researcher, and (4) discussing opportunities for expanding the scope and influence of medical education research. Their audience is intended to be clinicians involved in education, deans and associate deans who create and direct educational curricula and processes, and those from offices critical to the educational mission such as admissions, student services and financial aid, as well as medical education researchers. The authors argue that the quality and relevance of current work can be enhanced when research is situated within a general framework and questions are asked that are based on literature and theory and push the field toward new knowledge. Obviously methods and designs must be appropriate and well-executed and sufficient data must be gathered. Multiple studies are highlighted that showcase the rigor and creativity associated with excellent quality work. However, good research is not without its challenges, most notably short timelines and the need to work within an ever-changing real-life educational environment. Most important, the field of medical education research has many opportunities to increase its impact and advance its quest to study important learners' behaviors and patients' outcomes. Programs to train and collaborate with clinical and administrative colleagues, as well as researchers in other fields, have great potential to improve the quality of research in the field.