Faculty Articles


Reliability of a Timeline Method: Assessing Normal Drinkers’ Reports of Recent Drinking and a Comparative Evaluation across Several Populations.

Document Type


Publication Date



Adult, Alcohol Drinking, Drinking Behavior, Ethanol, Evaluation Studies as Topic, Retrospective Studies, Time Factors

Publication Title

British Journal of Addiction








Since alcohol research involves both clinical and non-clinical populations, it is important to evaluate drinking assessment methods across different subject populations. Over the past several years, the reliability of the timeline (TL) method of gathering retrospective reports of recent drinking has been evaluated in several studies, and this method has been shown to have generally high reliability with outpatient alcohol abusers, in-patient chronic alcoholics, and normal drinker college students. The present study examined the reliability of the TL method with normal drinkers in the general population. Similar to other populations, the test-retest reliability of male (n = 31) and female (n = 31) normal drinkers' reports of recent drinking behaviour was found to be generally high. Data gathered by the TL method were also compared to data gathered from the same subjects using a common quantity-frequency (QF) method. Consistent with earlier reports, QF categorization provided a relatively insensitive measure of individual differences in drinking behaviour as compared to TL-derived data. Since the TL method has now been shown to have fairly good reliability for assessing recent drinking across a broad range of drinkers, it can be used for comparative evaluations of drinking behaviour across studies with different subject populations.

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