Application of the field-effect transistor principle to novel materials to achieve electrostatic doping is a relatively new research area. It may provide the opportunity to bring about modifications of the electronic and magnetic properties of materials through controlled and reversible changes of the carrier concentration without modifying the level of disorder, as occurs when chemical composition is altered. As well as providing a basis for new devices, electrostatic doping can in principle serve as a tool for studying quantum critical behavior, by permitting the ground state of a system to be tuned in a controlled fashion. In this paper progress in electrostatic doping of a number of materials systems is reviewed. These include structures containing complex oxides, such as cuprate superconductors and colossal magnetoresistive compounds, organic semiconductors, in the form of both single crystals and thin films, inorganic layered compounds, single molecules, and magnetic semiconductors. Recent progress in the field is discussed, including enabling experiments and technologies, open scientific issues and challenges, and future research opportunities. For many of the materials considered, some of the results can be anticipated by combining knowledge of macroscopic or bulk properties and the understanding of the field-effect configuration developed during the course of the evolution of conventional microelectronics. However, because electrostatic doping is an interfacial phenomenon, which is largely an unexplored field, real progress will depend on the development of a better understanding of lattice distortion and charge transfer at interfaces in these systems.