Gallium nitride (GaN) is one of the front-runner materials among the so-called wide bandgap semiconductors that can provide devices having high breakdown voltages and are capable of performing efficiently even at high temperatures. The wide bandgap, however, naturally leads to a high density of surface states on bare GaN-based devices or interface states along insulator/semiconductor interfaces distributed over a wide energy range. These electronic states can lead to instabilities and other problems when not appropriately managed. In this Tutorial, we intend to provide a pedagogical presentation of the models of electronic states, their effects on device performance, and the presently accepted approaches to minimize their effects such as surface passivation and insulated gate technologies. We also re-evaluate standard characterization methods and discuss their possible pitfalls and current limitations in probing electronic states located deep within the bandgap. We then introduce our own photo-assisted capacitance–voltage (C–V) technique, which is capable of identifying and examining near mid-gap interface states. Finally, we attempt to propose some directions to which some audience can venture for future development.