Recent studies have shown that the quantum statistical properties of systems which are chaotic in their classical limit can be expressed in terms of an effective field theory. Within this description, spectral properties are determined by low energy relaxation modes of the classical evolution operator. It is in the interaction of these modes that quantum interference effects are encoded. In this paper we review this general approach and discuss how the theory is modified to account for time-reversal symmetry breaking. To keep our discussion general, we will also briefly describe how the theory is modified by the presence of an additional discrete symmetry such as inversion. Throughout, parallels are drawn between quantum chaotic systems and the properties of weakly disordered conductors.