Over the past several decades, numerous investigators have studied the syndrome of delirium. Researchers have relied on a number of different case finding methods to detect the syndrome. This paper provides an overview of instruments used in studies of delirium. We assess the validity and reliability of these instruments and compare the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods. We then present the rationale for the development of the Delirium Symptom Interview, an instrument constructed for use in the Commonwealth-Harvard Study of delirium in elderly hospitalized patients.