This article provides an integrative review of the developing body of literature investigating academics’ ways of understanding research. The resulting review highlights implicit variation between different studies in the focus they have taken to addressing this research question, varyingly emphasising academics’ research intentions, questions, processes and/or outcomes. It is suggested that these four foci represent different dimensions of academics’ understandings of the nature of research. The review is followed by the report of an empirical study that brings these dimensions together in an integrated way by clarifying relationships between academics’ experiences of: research intentions (who is affected by the research), research outcomes (the anticipated impact of the research), research questions (the nature of the object of study), research process (how research is undertaken), and researcher affect (underlying feelings about research). The last dimension, researcher affect, has not been found in previous studies. This may be due to the focus taken in this study on ways of understanding ‘being a researcher’, rather than ways of understanding ‘research’ per se.