We aim to teach research methods within a developmental sequence. This sequence begins with an exploration and understanding of ontology, epistemology and methodology. This understanding provides a basis for teaching both qualitative and quantitative methods. The developmental sequence of ‘philosophy then methods’ is translated into student-centred learning that involves facilitating critical thinking in Year 2 and implementing research design in Year 3 within an undergraduate Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). This sequence is foundational to the process of more independent research that evolves in BSW Honours and Postgraduate research. The sequence also forms a firm foundation for practice research within the field of social work, but could equally be applied to other professions and disciplines.