Interest in the patient's views of his or her illness and treatment has increased dramatically. However, our ability to appropriately measure such issues lags far behind the level of interest and need. Too often such measurement is considered to be a simple and trivial activity that merely requires the application of common sense. However, good quality measurement of patient-reported outcomes is a complex activity requiring considerable expertise and experience. This review considers the most important issues related to such measurement in the context of chronic disease and details how instruments should be developed, validated and adapted for use in additional languages. While there is often consensus on how best to undertake these activities, there is generally little evidence to support such accord. The present article questions these orthodox views and suggests alternative approaches that have been shown to be effective.