Renewed interest in practice-based research reflects growing realization of the limitations of research from a hospital perspective. Practice-based pediatric research promises to broaden the range and severity of conditions commonly studied, to enhance the study of the natural history of disease and of normal development, to provide normal controls and standards, and to facilitate recruitment of adequate sample sizes. Cohort, incidence, and health services research will be promoted by the development of patients registries. The Chicago area Pediatric Practice Research Group is a research consortium of 81 practitioners in 27 office practices. Formed in 1984, it receives logistic and financial support from Children's Memorial Hospital, with which it is affiliated. The Pediatric Practice Research Group has undertaken six studies, most with outside funding. During these studies, some unifying characteristics of practice-based research have emerged. These include the need to tailor study protocols to individual practice characteristics and routines and the critical role of office staff in the conduct of research. Features can be identified that make specific studies more or less intrusive into office functioning. It has proved feasible to obtain data of high quality and reproducibility despite geographically scattered data collection sites. This review of Pediatric Practice Research Group activities and experience is intended to open an exchange of ideas with others interested in practice-based research.