The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), created to fund research guided by patients, caregivers, and the broader health care community, offers a new research venue. Many (41 of 50) first funded projects involved qualitative research methods. This study was completed to examine the current state of the science of qualitative methodologies used in PCORI-funded research. Principal investigators participated in phenomenological interviews to learn (a) how do researchers using qualitative methods experience seeking funding for, implementing and disseminating their work; and (b) how may qualitative methods advance the quality and relevance of evidence for patients? Results showed the experience of doing qualitative research in the current research climate as “Being a bona fide qualitative researcher: Staying true to research aims while negotiating challenges,” with overlapping patterns: (a) researching the elemental, (b) expecting surprise, and (c) pushing boundaries. The nature of qualitative work today was explicitly described and is rendered in this article.