Good-quality empirical results on 62 short-period binary stars recently summarised by Hilditch & Bell (1987) and Hilditch, King & McFarlane (1988) are discussed in terms of evolutionary paths from detached to semi-detached and contact states. These data suggest two evolutionary paths to the contact binaries - from detached systems directly into contact to form initially shallow-contact systems, and via case A mass transfer to semi-detached states, thence to contact systems. These empirical results support previous arguments based on evolutionary models and less detailed observational data.
Concern is expressed about the paucity of high-quality spectroscopic data, particularly for low-mass systems displaying EB-type light curves and the resultant limitations on analyses of those light curves. Such systems provide tests of evolution into contact for the first time, or of broken-contact phases for WUMa-type binaries. The crucial importance of long-term monitoring (decades) of times of minima as indicators of mass transfer rates amongst these interacting binaries is also noted.