This study focused on the introduction of mentors in the Common Foundation Programme of Project 2000 schemes of preregistration nurse education The research, which was commissioned by the Department of Health Research and Development Division on behalf of the Welsh Office Nursing Division, began in February 1992 and was undertaken on an all-Wales basis The completed report aims to provide policy makers with information relating to important issues which are central to the teaching and learning of nursing in clinical locations This first paper discusses some background issues and gives a brief conceptual framework for considering policy reform, summarizes the research questions which emerged and describes the methods used to address them The second paper (to appear in the next issue of the journal) will describe the key findings from the study and discuss some ensuing potential implications and considerations for all those involved in the preparation of future practitioners of nursing