Resource use measures, including forms, diaries and questionnaires, are ubiquitous in trial-based economic evaluations in the UK. However, there are concerns about the accuracy of how they are described, which limits the transparency of reporting. We developed a simple and structured taxonomy for methods of resource use measurement by examining 94 resource use measures (RUMs) employed within clinical trials, conducting a descriptive synthesis of the extracted data and soliciting wider opinion during a period of consultation. The reporting of RUMs was found to be varied and inconsistent. Our new taxonomy, which considered the views of 20 consultees, requires that RUMs are reported with a description of the following: (i) the source of data (patient; patient proxy, e.g. carer, parent or guardian; observation of contemporary events; medical records; or other databases); (ii) who completes the RUM (patient or their proxy, and researcher or health care professional); (iii) how it is administered (to self [the patient], face to face or telephone); (iv) how it is recorded (form, questionnaire, log or diary); and (v) medium of recording (e.g. paper or electronically). Based on the present analysis, we have developed a taxonomy for RUMs that should result in data collection methods being described more accurately. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.