Field surveys of diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors are increasingly being performed in both developed and developing countries. Although individual priorities and circumstances will influence survey design, a model survey manual and protocol is described which might assist investigators in formulating plans and preparing manuals for their own surveys. The model presented has been successfully used in developing countries, for both rural and urban communities, over more than a decade. It describes examples of survey objectives, and gives specific details of survey procedures and measurement techniques which may be utilized. It contains sufficient flexibility to allow its adaptation to local circumstances.