The bone marrow examination is an essential investigation for the diagnosis and management of many disorders of the blood and bone marrow. The aspirate and trephine biopsy specimens are complementary and when both are obtained, they provide a comprehensive evaluation of the bone marrow. The final interpretation requires the integration of peripheral blood, bone marrow aspirate and trephine biopsy findings, together with the results of supplementary tests such as immunophenotyping, cytogenetic analysis and molecular genetic studies as appropriate, in the context of clinical and other diagnostic findings. Methods for the preparation, processing and reporting of bone marrow aspirates and trephine biopsy specimens can vary considerably. These differences may result in inconsistencies in disease diagnosis or classification that may affect treatment and clinical outcomes. In recognition of the need for standardization in this area, an international Working Party for the Standardization of Bone Marrow Specimens and Reports was formed by the International Council for Standardization in Hematology (ICSH) to prepare a set of guidelines based on preferred best practices. The guidelines were discussed at the ICSH General Assemblies and reviewed by an international panel of experts to achieve further consensus.