The Comprehensive Assessment of Symptoms and History was developed for research studies of schizophrenia spectrum conditions and affective spectrum conditions. It is designed to provide a comprehensive information base concerning current and past signs and symptoms, premorbid functioning, cognitive functioning, sociodemographic status, treatment, and course of illness. Because the information base is broad, it is not wedded to a specific diagnostic system but rather permits clinicians and investigators to make diagnoses using a wide range of systems, including Research Diagnostic Criteria, DSM-III, DSM-III-R, and the International Classification of Diseases. Given the fact that disorders in psychiatry are not defined at the etiological or pathophysiological level, diagnostic criteria are prone to ongoing revision as our knowledge base changes. Research strategies suggest that investigators should maintain a flexible database to permit them to adapt to changes in diagnostic systems, to do comparative nosological studies, and, ultimately, to develop new diagnostic systems based on knowledge concerning the underlying neurobiological nature of disorders. Because it provides a comprehensive information base, the Comprehensive Assessment of Symptoms and History facilitates research of this type. Extensive developmental work has been done with the Comprehensive Assessment of Symptoms and History, including interrater and test-retest reliability studies, validity studies, training programs, and data entry programs.