This AMEE Guide offers an introduction to research in medical education. It is intended for those who are contemplating conducting research in medical education but are new to the field. The Guide is structured around the process of transforming ideas and problems into researchable questions, choosing a research approach that is appropriate to the purpose of the study and considering the individual researcher's preferences and the contextual possibilities and constraints. The first section of the Guide addresses the rationale for research in medical education and some of the challenges posed by the complexity of the field. Next is a section on how to move from an idea or problem to a research question by placing a concrete idea or problem within a conceptual, theoretical framework. The following sections are structured around an overview model of approaches to medical education research, 'The research compass'. Core to the model is the conceptual, theoretical framework that is the key to any direction. The compass depicts four main categories of research approaches that can be applied when studying medical education phenomena, 'Explorative studies'; 'Experimental studies'; 'Observational studies'; and 'Translational studies'. Future AMEE Guides in the research series will address these approaches in more detail.