Rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based technique which was developed to facilitate the cloning of full-length cDNA 5'- and 3'-ends after a partial cDNA sequence has been obtained by other methods. While RACE can yield complete sequences of cDNA ends in only a few days, the RACE procedure frequently results in the exclusive amplification of truncated cDNA ends, undermining efforts to generate full-length clones. Many investigators have suggested modifications to the RACE protocol to improve the effectiveness of the technique. Based on first-hand experience with RACE, a critical review of numerous published variations of the key steps in the RACE method is presented. Also included is a detailed, effective protocol based on RNA ligase-mediated RACE/reverse ligation-mediated PCR, as well as a demonstration of its utility.