This work is devoted to the study, the development, and the application of a new systematic method yielding the dominant correlations that govern a quantum many-body state in an unbiased way. The dominant correlations between any two disjoint blocks of a system are extracted by performing a singular value decomposition of the correlation density matrix (CDM) between those blocks. We determine several mathematical properties and features of this method, in particular the consequences of the lattice symmetries or the symmetries intrinsic to the studied state on the singular values spectrum. We investigate the relation between the norm of the CDM – providing a natural measure of the total correlation between the two blocks – and the so-called mutual information, a quantity originally introduced in quantum information theory. This novel tool is utilized for sheding new light on the zero temperature physics of the spin-1/2 frustrated ferromagnetic J1–J2 Heisenberg chain in a magnetic field as well as on the low-energy physics of the spin-1/2 antiferromagnetic Heisenberg model on the two-dimensional kagomé lattice. The states are computed using exact diagonalization and the density matrix renormalization group procedure in the first case, and exact diagonalization only in the second case. This work is introduced in Chapter 1. The first model is then presented in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 introduces the CDM method, and Chapter 4 is devoted to the study of the kagomé antiferromagnet. In the J1–J2 chain, we reveal a vector chiral phase at low magnetic field and a sequence of multipolar Luttinger liquid phases at high field. We explicitly show that these multipolar phases result from the destabilization – driven by a locking mechanism – of the classical spiral ground state in the absence of magnetic field. This point of view is completely new: multipolar phases were known to be a possible destabilization of ferromagnetic phases, but they have never been reported as a destabilization of spiral states yet. Regarding the kagomé antiferromagnet, we address for the first time the question of the nature of the singlet states forming its quite dense singlet spectrum above the ground state. We show that some of these low-lying singlet states have large dimer correlations which do not seem to significantly decrease with the distance, moreover our CDM studies confirm that the dominant correlations in those singlet states are of the dimer-dimer type. Studies of Von Neumann block entropies reveal a very short correlation length on the one hand, and entropies that are roughly independent on the energy of the state under consideration on the other hand. The scenario of a valence bond crystal phase is investigated and the relevance of different kinds of crystals (from the literature or ad hoc) for reproducing the dimer correlations in the 36-site sample is probed.