We conducted a survey of physicians regarding their experience of how cost-containment policies affected the health system in Portugal, particularly in terms of the quality of and access to health care. We explain the study design, especially the pertinence of the research goals and the reason for choosing a postal survey of a non-representative sample of physicians. We also highlight arguments on the appropriateness of this sampling technique in academic research. We detail the research practicalities, in particular the official involvement of the Portuguese Medical Association in the research process. This leads us to reflect on the place of third parties on research teams and the need to ensure the scientific independence of studies. We describe how the postal survey went and the measures taken to leverage its success. We conclude with reflection on the practical lessons learned, which includes the criteria to be used when choosing research methods, defining essential and non-essential choices to be made during the research, and reflecting on the nature of the data produced, especially with regard to previously established facts.