This paper describes the process of involving health professions students in research in rural primary care and how their research has contributed to the development and expansion of a rural community health center. Since 1978 over 400 students have completed rotations at the center, and more than 200 have been health profession students, including medical, nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy, and health administration students. A total of 96 research projects were completed. These projects lie in two main areas: medical services and community outreach. Those related to medical services include measures of access to care, quality of care audits, clinical guideline development, practice patterns, prevalence studies, and qualitative research. Projects focusing on community outreach include community surveys, screening follow-ups, program evaluation, and program development. Principles that guide the selection and conduct of research projects include: Projects should be directly related to important work of the practice and reflect an interest of the student; projects are structured to include some or all of the following: literature search, data analysis, a visual display of quantitative information (table or graph), and application of relevant statistical tools; the student has a project supervisor; the student is a participant rather than an independent investigator; and a research flow sheet is used to orient students and NRHA staff to the larger research effort. Students are expected to present results, conclusions and recommendations to an appropriate group. Student research has made a significant contribution to both practice activities and practice policies.