Adaptive comanagement is at an important cross-road: different research paths forward are possible, and a diagnostic approach has been identified as a promising one. Accordingly, we operationalize a diagnostic approach, using a framework, to set a new direction for adaptive comanagement research. We set out three main first-tier variables: antecedents, process, and outcomes, and these main variables are situated within a fourth: the setting. Within each of these variables, significant depth of study may be achieved by investigating second- and third-tier variables. Causal relationships among variables, and particularly related to the outcomes of adaptive comanagement, may also be investigated at varying depths using the diagnostic framework and associated nomenclature. We believe that the diagnostic approach we describe offers a unifying methodological approach to advancing adaptive comanagement research as well as similar approaches. There are significant benefits to be gained, including building a database of case studies using this common framework, advancing theory, and ultimately, improving social and ecological outcomes.