When we read peer-reviewed published papers presenting study findings, we typically find a cohesive narrative, following a standardized script, providing a simplified version of our research focused on one or more relationships between independent and dependent variables (if quantitative). Rarely do we, as scientists and researchers, have the opportunity to share the often-complex journey from protocol to publication. In this case study, you will become privy to the backstory for the Models and Access Atlas of Primary Care Study of Nova Scotia (MAAP-NS). MAAP-NS was the first Canadian study to link provincial census survey data from all primary care practices and providers to administrative billing data for an entire province. Discussion will include the development of an experience-based research questionnaire; moving beyond standard tools to develop novel, and in some cases controversial, survey questions; observation-based innovative survey methods for primary care practices and providers; the critical role of team members in successful research; the tenacity for finding funding; the complexity of linking survey and administrative billing data; the unexpected challenges related to human resource changes; and how to meet knowledge translation goals on a limited budget.