This article presents detailed findings from the qualitative or interpretive phase of a mixed-methods case study focusing on the professional identities and lived experiences of research among six lecturers working in different capacities across the field of education in a 'teaching-led' higher education institution. Building upon the quantitative phase published earlier in this journal, factors both facilitating (e.g. research infrastructure, support for doctoral study) and constraining (e.g. time, space, workload, critical mass, 'practitioner bond professionalism', 'organisational socialisation', networks, roles and responsibilities, power relationships) research activity are identified. These are considered in the context of an institution often recruiting staff with 'non-traditional' backgrounds from within 'the professions' (e.g. from schools and colleges without doctorates) looking to become more 'research-informed' and establish a more vibrant and sustainable research culture. Recommendations for further development focus on 'identity transitions' and 'cultural transformation', emphasising the importance of research leadership and its distribution throughout the organisation. With current trends towards the apparent intensification and prioritisation of research activity over teaching, findings are considered particularly important for institutions of a similar nature to the one described here, for education departments in larger institutions also on similar journeys, and in light of an anticipated increase in demand for research activity arising from the expansion of higher education provision in further education and the private sector, where recruitment from within 'the professions' to teach across 'vocational' programmes is common.