Conceptual and logistical challenges associated with the design and analysis of ecological restoration experiments are often viewed as being insurmountable, thereby limiting the potential value of restoration experiments as tests of ecological theory. Such research constraints are, however, not unique within the environmental sciences. Numerous natural and anthropogenic disturbances represent unplanned, uncontrollable events that cannot be replicated or studied using traditional experimental approaches and statistical analyses. A broad mix of appropriate research approaches (e.g., long-term studies, large-scale comparative studies, space-for-time substitution, modeling, and focused experimentation) and analytical tools (e.g., observational, spatial, and temporal statistics) are available and required to advance restoration ecology as a scientific discipline. In this article, research design and analytical options are described and assessed in relation to their applicability to restoration ecology. Significant research benefits may be derived from explicitly defining conceptual models and presuppositions, developing multiple working hypotheses, and developing and archiving high-quality data and metadata. Flexibility in research approaches and statistical analyses, high-quality databases, and new sampling approaches that support research at broader spatial and temporal scales are critical for enhancing ecological understanding and supporting further development of restoration ecology as a scientific discipline.