The study of metabolism has had a long history. Metabolomics, a systems biology discipline representing analysis of known and unknown pathways of metabolism, has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. Because of its comprehensive nature, metabolomics requires careful consideration of the question(s) being asked, the scale needed to answer the question(s), collection and storage of the sample specimens, methods for extraction of the metabolites from biological matrices, the analytical method(s) to be employed and the quality control of the analyses, how collected data are correlated, the statistical methods to determine metabolites undergoing significant change, putative identification of metabolites and the use of stable isotopes to aid in verifying metabolite identity and establishing pathway connections and fluxes. The National Institutes of Health Common Fund Metabolomics Program was established in 2012 to stimulate interest in the approaches and technologies of metabolomics. To deliver one of the program's goals, the University of Alabama at Birmingham has hosted an annual 4-day short course in metabolomics for faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from national and international institutions. This paper is the first part of a summary of the training materials presented in the course to be used as a resource for all those embarking on metabolomics research. The complete set of training materials including slide sets and videos can be viewed at http://www.uab.edu/proteomics/metabolomics/workshop/workshop_june_2015.php. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.