Summary Aims This study explored the perceptions of clinical nurses about their research knowledge and experiences to highlight any gaps in nurse education in supporting research activities in healthcare organisations. Background Nurses' research activities have been encouraged by moving hospital-based nurse education into higher education institutions whereby there is a stronger emphasis on teaching and developing nursing research at both undergraduate and post graduate levels. They were further encouraged by the introduction of advanced nurse practitioner roles, in the hope to increase opportunities for research participation. Whilst nurses' research activities have been explored in many countries, nurses in Singapore where there is a strong emphasis on evidence-based practice have not been investigated. Methods A mixed-methods exploratory descriptive design, using a questionnaire based on open and closed questions was employed to obtain the views of clinical nurses about their capacity and organisational support in conducting research. The questionnaires were distributed to convenient samples who attended one of the 4 research seminars held on separate occasions between July and August 2011 in Singapore. Results A total of 146 nurses were recruited. Whilst nurses demonstrated strong enthusiasm in conducting research, this characteristic feature was not adequate for them to embrace a research culture in organisations. Active participation as co-investigators was not possible in healthcare organisations where skewed distribution of resources towards medical and nurse researchers was perceived. Conclusions The results suggest a need for a significant shift in focus on educational training from imparting research contents to providing opportunities to experience the research process. Organisational support in terms of protected time and financial support ought to be in place for nursing research experience. The findings also demonstrated that in places where organisational support was available, awareness of research opportunities such as educational and organisational support needed to be strengthened. This in turn would enable more nurses particularly those who provide direct patient care to conduct research within the context of the competing nursing practice demands.