Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), including heparan sulfate (HS), are expressed on the surface of nearly all cells, linked to transmembrane proteins. These GAGs are sulfated to varying extents, lending a negative charge, and are used by a large number of viruses to initiate infection of immortalized cell lines. Here we describe the rationale and methods for analyzing GAG usage by one such virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The protocols presented allow the determination of which GAG(s) is employed by the virus, which GAG modification(s) is important, and whether the important GAG is on the cell or on the virus. We also discuss the finding that many viruses are selected for GAG usage during passage in culture and present a method for rapidly determining whether GAG usage is characteristic of a wild virus or is limited to laboratory-adapted virus.