Analytical strategies dealing with bioactive phenols in plants and foods are reviewed. These depend on the purpose of the analysis which may be classified as studies where the principal purpose is biological screening, phytochemical and/or chemical screening. Nevertheless, extraction of the phenol from the sample matrix is common and methods of achieving a suitable extract are assessed. Advances in the separation sciences and spectrometry are exploited for identification and quantification of isolated phenols. The various procedures are summarized and some typical 'case studies' are presented. Two important areas are introduced briefly. Thus, plant phenols are reactive species and their ultimate fate has been relatively neglected. Studies of bioactive compounds generate a considerable volume of data making data handling and informatics important topics that warrant a separate review.