The use of research, understood as the production of knowledge through a systematic and rigorous process, is not new in urban design practice. Indeed, research is often part of the design process (e.g. on site-specific historical morphologies). But more elaborate forms of practice-led research, are burgeoning, particularly in the UK. Yet little is known about this type of work. How is this knowledge created, used and shared by practices and in practice? What is the value of research for practitioners? And what value does research bring to design and to the urban environment? This issue of Urban Design explores these questions through a combination of articles that critically reflect on practice-led research in the UK and abroad, and across private, public and educational settings. It aims to interrogate, understand and expose how urban design practices undertake research and incorporate it in their work, exploring their motivations, innovative approaches, tools and methods, areas of enquiry, and ultimately the challenges that they face.