This study presents a systematic methodology for performing transient heat release analysis in a diesel engine. Novel techniques have been developed to infer the mass of air trapped in the cylinder and the mass of fuel injected on a cycle-by-cycle basis. The cyclic mass of air trapped in the cylinder is found accounting for pressure gradients, piston motion and short-circuiting during the valve overlap period. The cyclic mass of fuel injected is computed from the injection pressure history. These parameters are used in conjunction with cycle-resolved pressure data to accurately define the instantaneous thermodynamic state of the mixture. This information is used in the calculation and interpretation of transient heat release profiles. Results presented for a step-change in load illustrate how cyclic pressure measurements, along with fuel and air computations, can aid in understanding the effects of mixture preparation on the character and rate of combustion during diesel engine transients.