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Formal methods (FM) are mathematically-based techniques that provide a rigorous basis for software development: the application of FMs makes it possible to achieve provable correctness and reliability in the various steps of system design and implementation. This article is a tutorial presentation of formal methods and description techniques that address modeling and analysis of distributed systems and concurrent processes in telecommunications and protocol engineering. The aim of the article is to introduce to non-practitioners the main formal methods for communication protocols. For each method, a synthetic description of its textual or graphical syntax is provided. Also, the modeling capabilities and the basic communication features are pointed out by the application of the method to a common case study, a simple retransmission protocol. The tutorial description is completed by examples of recent applications of FMs to the specification and analysis of transmission and signaling protocols in industrial and research projects, which describe the methods' application domain and offer selected references for further readings.