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OBJECTIVE. This study examined ways in which race/ethnicity has been conceptualized and used in the health services research literature as published in Health Services Research (HSR). DATA SOURCE. All articles published in HSR from its inception in 1966 to 1990. STUDY DESIGN. The analyses were restricted to U.S.-based empirical research on humans or in which human population characteristics are described. This study identifies the terms used for race and/or ethnicity, the frequency with which they occur, and the purposes for which they are utilized. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. The study documents that race/ethnicity is widely used in the health services literature to stratify or adjust results and to describe the sample or population of the study. Terms used for race are seldom defined and race is frequently employed in a routine and uncritical manner to represent ill-defined social and cultural factors. CONCLUSIONS. Researchers and practitioners must give more careful attention to the conceptualization and measurement of race. An understanding of racial/ethnic differences in patterns of health service utilization will require efforts to catalog and quantify the specific social and cultural factors that are differentially distributed by racial and ethnic status.