Social support literature has been criticized for lacking methodological clarity. The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic descriptive review of the social support literature, outline measurement problems, identify the nature of assessment inadequacies, and provide recommendations for the future. Two-hundred sixty-two empirically based articles published between 1980 and 1987 were reviewed comprehensively. Information about social support measurement and sample characteristics was obtained. A system was designed to organize the data on sample characteristics, type of instrument, source of support assessed, and category of support measured. The social support literature also was described from a methodological perspective, and several trends were identified. Conclusions about conceptual maturity, a priori biases, measurement of network utilization, and social support sources are discussed.