Braced frames and steel plate shear walls (SPSWs) have both been shown to be useful in the seismic retrofit of buildings. While both these systems have merit, no guidance exists to help the engineer determine which of the two approaches is preferable in terms of providing stiffness, maximum displacement ductility, cumulative hysteretic energy dissipation, and energy dissipation per cycle for a given strength. In an attempt to provide some quantitative data and insight for this purpose, this paper describes and compares the results from cyclic testing of six frames: four concentrically braced frames (two with cold-formed steel studs for in-plane and out-of-plane restraint of the braces and two without), and two light-gauge steel plate shear walls (one with a flat infill plate and one with a corrugated infill). The largest initial stiffness was provided by a braced frame specimen with cold formed steel studs and the largest ductility was achieved with a steel plate shear wall with flat infill. After scaling the hysteretic results to the same design base shear, it was found that both the energy dissipated per cycle and the cumulative energy dissipation were similar for flat plate SPSW and braced frames with two tubular braces, up to a ductility of four. After that the tubular braces fractured while the SPSW with a flat infill reached a ductility of nine before the energy dissipation per cycle decreased. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.