All genetic markers are estimators of DNA nucleotide sequence variation. Rather than obtaining DNA sequence data, it is cheaper and faster to use techniques that estimate sequence variation, although this usually results in the loss of some information. SSCP (single-stranded conformation polymorphism) offers a sensitive but inexpensive, rapid, and convenient method for determining which DNA samples in a set differ in sequence, so that only an informative subset need be sequenced. In short, most DNA sequence variation can be detected with relatively little sequencing. SSCP has been widely applied in medical diagnosis, yet few studies have been published in population genetics. The utility and convenience of SSCP is far from fully appreciated by molecular population biologists. We hope to help redress this by illustrating the application of a single simple SSCP protocol to mitochondrial genes, nuclear introns, microsatellites, and anonymous nuclear sequences, in a range of vertebrates and invertebrates.