A major issue in shift-work research is to understand the possible ways in which shift work can impact performance and health. Nearly all body functions, from those of the cellular level to those of the entire body, are circadian rhythmic. Disturbances of these rhythms as well as the social consequences of odd work hours are of importance for the health and well-being of shift workers. This article reviews a number of common methodological issues which are of relevance to epidemiological studies in this area of research. It discusses conceptual problems regarding the use of the term "shift work," and it underscores the need to develop models that explain the mechanisms of disease in shift workers.