The objective of this paper is to present an overview of topics related to one of the fundamental parameters for semiconductor lasers-the linewidth broadening factor α that describes the coupling between carrier-concentration-induced variations of real and imaginary parts of susceptibility. After introducing the definition of α and discussing its dependence on carrier concentration, photon energy, and temperature, we give a short historical summary on how the concept of α evolved over the past two decades. This is followed by a discussion of α dependence on device structure in gain-guided and subdimensional lasers (quantum wells and quantum wires). The bulk of the paper is devoted to a detailed review of laser properties influenced by α and of associated methods of estimating the value of α. Results of measurements reported to date are collected and the most reliable methods are indicated.