This paper presents a critical discussion of the definitions, conceptual models, and methodological issues that researchers should consider in studies of sociocultural influences on drinking practices and problems. In particular, these concerns are related to studies of American Indian and Alaskan Native people. In an effort to avoid overgeneralized explanatory statements, it is recommended that efforts be made to study more specific aspects of such loosely defined terms as culture, alcoholism, and "Indianness." Research in this area might usefully be guided by parsimonious conceptual models developed and investigated in the dominant culture; however the extent to which relationships observed within one group generalized to another group remains an empirical question. While there may be a common set of operationalizing variables and collecting valid data cannot be assumed to have equal applicability with different subgroups. By remaining sensitive to the methodological implications of sociocultural differences, investigators can more accurately clarify the processes by which complex biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors influence alcohol use and misuse in any individual or group.