BackgroundTo examine research background, attitudes, knowledge and skills of family medicine residents with regard to primary care research and to compare residents who elected to participate in the research stream with those who did not.MethodsMailed survey of Family Medicine residents at McMaster University in 1998, 70% (52/74) of whom responded. The main outcome measures consisted of research background; attitudes towards primary care research and research activities during residency program; knowledge and skills in applying it in biostatistics, epidemiology, and research design.ResultsThe vast majority of the residents reported previous research experience and/or some training in epidemiology and biostatistics. Residents in the research stream were more likely to be female and were positive towards primary care research: they were more interested in research, more interested in obtaining more research training while a resident, and placed more importance on developing research early in medical education. The research stream residents had stronger views regarding perceived lack of support staff and lack of time for research. There were no statistically significant differences between the research stream and other residents in terms of research knowledge and skills in applying it.ConclusionsAttitudes towards research rather than research knowledge or skills seemed to distinguish those selecting to be in our new research stream at the inception.