Despite intensive research during the past decade on the effects of alien species, invasion science still lacks the capacity to accurately predict the impacts of those species and, therefore, to provide timely advice to managers on where limited resources should be allocated. This capacity has been limited partly by the context-dependent nature of ecological impacts, research highly skewed toward certain taxa and habitat types, and the lack of standardized methods for detecting and quantifying impacts. We review different strategies, including specific experimental and observational approaches, for detecting and quantifying the ecological impacts of alien species. These include a four-way experimental plot design for comparing impact studies of different organisms. Furthermore, we identify hypothesis-driven parameters that should be measured at invaded sites to maximize insights into the nature of the impact. We also present strategies for recognizing high-impact species. Our recommendations provide a foundation for developing systematic quantitative measurements to allow comparisons of impacts across alien species, sites, and time.