Context: Although research activity in palliative care is rapidly increasing, the composition of published studies - in terms of significant research characteristics - has not yet been well described. Objectives: To describe the topics of and funding for palliative care studies reported in the three hospice and palliative care journals with the highest impact factors (Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Palliative Medicine, and Journal of Palliative Medicine). Methods: This was a substudy of a larger bibliographic study. The targeted journals were searched for 2007 using a previously validated Ovid MEDLINE filter for palliative care. All empirical palliative care studies were included. Articles were classified according to topics (palliative care patient, caregiver/family, health professional, service provision, tool development, healthy volunteer, medication compatibility, community), study type (intervention, nonintervention), country of origin, and funding source (pharmaceutical company, other funder, unfunded). Results: Of 409 citations identified, the search yielded 189 eligible articles. Most articles were descriptive/observational. Approximately half were unfunded. Caregivers, healthy volunteers, and health service research were the least frequent topics for research. Only five randomized controlled trials were reported. Conclusion: Although there is a broad range of research undertaken in palliative care, few studies generate high-level evidence, with data showing a relative lack of funding for hospice and palliative care studies.