Conventional methods of recording linearly modulated (LM) optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) require control over either the exciting light intensity, or the ability to pulse the source. For many light sources (e.g. constant-power CW lasers, arc lamps and synchrotrons) this can be problematic. Directly analogous results to LM-OSL can, however, be achieved with non-modulated excitation sources, by ramping the sample period (RSP) of luminescence detection. RSP-OSL has the distinct advantage over LM-OSL in that, since the excitation remains at full power, data accumulation times (that can be considerable) can be reduced by typically 50%. RSP methods are universally applicable and can be employed, for example, where the excitation source is constant heat, rather than light: here, iso-thermal decay of phosphorescence becomes recorded as a sequence of peaks, corresponding to de-trapping of charge from different defect levels, and is particularly useful for analysing shallow-trap effects. RSP methods are also useful in providing significant compaction of data sets, where signal analysis is required of overlapping systems having a wide range of decay kinetics. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.