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The application of high-throughput next-generation sequencing to the analysis of the human microbiome has led to a shift in our understanding of the etiology of complex diseases. In consequence, a great deal of literature can now be found exploring this complex system, and reviewing recent findings. Observations of alterations in the intestinal microbiome associating with inflammatory bowel disease and other chronic conditions are well supported and have been widely accepted by the research community. Yet, it can be difficult to objectively evaluate the importance of these results, given the wide variety of methodologies applied by different groups in the field. The aim of this review is to focus attention on the basic principles involved in microbiome analyses, and to describe factors that may have an impact on the accurate interpretation of results.