Structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are increasingly common research methods among investigators interested in typically and atypically developing populations. However, the effective use of these tools requires an understanding of the basis of the magnetic resonance signal, as well as some of the additional experimental complications that arise when collecting MRI data from developmental populations. This primer provides a foundation for investigators who wish to utilize MRI methods in their research and whose primary interest involves typically and atypically developing populations. The basic concepts of MRI physics are introduced, as well as the typical MRI scanner components and their role in MRI data acquisition. In addition, a variety of scan types (structural, functional, diffusion tensor) are discussed, along with a number of important experimental design factors that can impact the quality and utility of the data collected. Special consideration is given to working with pediatric and special populations.