The host rocks of shale gas accumulations act as source, seal and reservoir. They are characterized by complex pore systems with ultra-low to low interparticle permeability and low to moderate porosity. The word ‘shale’ is used in the sense of a geological formation rather than a lithology, so shale gas reservoirs can show marked variations in rock type from claystones, marlstones and mudstones to sandstone and carbonate lithological ‘sweet spots’. The pore space includes both intergranular and intrakerogen porosity. The density of natural fractures varies markedly, and pore throat connectivity is relatively ineffective. Moreover, in-situ gas pore volume has to take account of both free and adsorbed gas, an evaluation exercise that is complicated by pronounced variations in water salinity. All these characteristics present major challenges to the process of petrophysical evaluation. The petrophysical responses to these issues are severalfold. First, a broader calibrating database of core measurements is required at key wells, especially as regards mineralogy, porosity and permeability data, shale/mudstone sample analyses, total organic carbon, gas desorption isotherms, and the analysis of extracted formation waters. Second, at least in the key wells, an extended suite of logs should include an elemental analysis log, magnetic resonance imager, electrical micro-imager, and a dipole sonic log. These databases lead to a rock-typing scheme that takes better account of dynamic properties and fracturability. They also allow reservoir partitioning based on exclusivity of empirical interpretative algorithms, e.g. quartz content vs. producibility. These responses comprise key elements of a functional petrophysical system that encompasses fit-for-purpose interpretation methods, such as a pseudo-Archie approach, i.e. the application of the Archie equations with non-intrinsic exponents. This system is presented as a workflow for application in shale gas reservoirs, for which bulk density retains a major influence on computed gas in place. The benefits of this approach are especially strong in reserves reporting of these unconventional gas reservoirs.