The aspiration to design and conduct high-quality research in palliative care has been an important but elusive goal. The article evaluates the nature of research methodologies presented in published research within the broad remit of palliative care. A systematic search of the Medline database between 1997 and 2006, using the keywords 'palliative care' or 'end-of-life care' and 'research methodology', identified over 318 publications. A bibliometric analysis indicates an incremental increase in published outputs per year, from 27 countries, with articles widely distributed across 108 journals. The heterogeneity of the research methodologies and the journals publishing them, present challenges in defining what constitutes 'high quality'. We argue that although this diversity leads to a lack of coherence for a single disciplinary paradigm for palliative care, there is a greater acknowledgement of the differing epistemological and theoretical frameworks used by researchers. This could be regarded as enriching our understanding of what it means to be dying in contemporary society.