The instrumental factors and measuring conditions affecting neutron emission spectrometry measurements of tokamak plasmas are described and analyzed. The measured energy broadening and shift of the neutron emission is used to deduce ion temperature (Ti) and toroidal plasma rotation velocity (Vt) representing average (effective) values for the nonuniform plasma volume viewed. Analytical expressions are derived for the relationship between the line-volume integrated effective temperature (Teff) and the radial profile Ti(r) for the case of thermal plasmas with isotropic neutron emission; effects on Teff due to spectral broadening from the radial dependence Vt(r) were also considered. The analysis method presented here is applied to high quality data obtained with the magnetic proton recoil neutron spectrometer installed at Joint European Torus for measurements of deuterium–tritium plasmas. Similarly, cases of anisotropic neutron emission were quantitatively assessed. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.