Patterns of local adaptation are expected to emerge when selection is spatially heterogeneous and sufficiently strong relative to the action of other evolutionary forces. The observation of local adaptation thus provides important insight into evolutionary processes and the adaptive divergence of populations. The detection of local adaptation, however, suffers from several conceptual, statistical and methodological issues. Here, we provide practical recommendations regarding (1) the definition of local adaptation, (2) the analysis of transplant experiments and (3) the optimisation of the experimental design of local adaptation studies. Together, these recommendations provide a unified approach for measuring local adaptation and understanding the adaptive divergence of populations in a wide range of biological systems.