Many studies are in progress worldwide to elucidate the genetics of complex diseases. Nevertheless, few articles are available that provide the scientific rationale and give guidelines for such ambitious endeavours. We describe the methodology and background necessary to study the genetics of complex disease and discuss how to analyze the data. We also provide a table of some ongoing studies. In particular, we wish to emphasize the analysis of intermediate, heritable, quantitative traits as a means of dissecting the genetic basis of a complex trait.