The characterization of autoantibody specificities in rheumatic diseases is important in both diagnostic and basic research areas. Identification of the epitopes recognized by autoantibodies and their clinical and biological significance is not a trivial task. Epitopes may range in complexity from simple linear sequences of amino acids to complex quaternary structures. In addition to this structural complexity the frequency with which an autoantigen and its epitopes are recognized in a patient population may be useful in diagnosis, defining disease subgroups, and may offer information on disease prognosis. In this review recent advances in the epitope mapping of autoantigens in connective tissue diseases are discussed, with particular emphasis placed on the methodologies used to identify epitopes and the classification of the structural features of epitopes. To illustrate the identification of epitope structure, clinically relevant autoantigens, including CENP-A, PM/Scl-100, fibrillarin, filaggrin, Ro-52, and dsDNA, are discussed as examples of each type of epitope.