In 2003 the World Health Organization (WHO) convened a working group and published a set of standard methods for studies measuring nasopharyngeal carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus). The working group recently reconvened under the auspices of the WHO and updated the consensus standard methods. These methods describe the collection, transport and storage of nasopharyngeal samples, as well as provide recommendations for the identification and serotyping of pneumococci using culture and non-culture based approaches. We outline the consensus position of the working group, the evidence supporting this position, areas worthy of future research, and the epidemiological role of carriage studies. Adherence to these methods will reduce variability in the conduct of pneumococcal carriage studies undertaken in the context of pneumococcal vaccine trials, implementation studies, and epidemiology studies more generally so variability in methodology does not confound the interpretation of study findings.