In a cylindrical helicon plasma, mode structures of coherent drift waves are studied in the poloidal plane, the plane perpendicular to the ambient magnetic field. The mode structures rotate with a constant angular velocity in the direction of the electron diamagnetic drift and show significant radial bending. The experimental observations are compared with numerical solutions of a linear nonlocal cylindrical model for drift waves [ Ellis , Plasma Phys. 22, 113 (1980) ]. In the numerical model, a transition to bended mode structures is found if the plasma collisionality is increased. This finding proves that the experimentally observed bended mode structures are the result of high electron collisionality. (C) 2004 American Institute of Physics.