The aim of the study was to conduct a structured review of the literature published on the use of normal sperm morphology, as an indicator of male fertility potential in the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) situation, and to establish the universal predictive value of this semen parameter. Published literature in which normal sperm morphology was used to predict fertilization and pregnancy, during the period 1978-1996, was reviewed. A total of 216 articles were identified by the sourcing methodology, but only 49 provided data that could be tabulated and analysed. Of these, only 18 provided sufficient data for statistical analysis. Fifteen studies used the strict criteria to evaluate sperm morphology, two used World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and one used both the strict criteria and the WHO guidelines. All the studies (n = 10) using the 5 and 14% normal sperm morphology thresholds (strict criteria) produced positive predictive values for IVF success. In the prediction of pregnancy, 82% (9/11) and 75% (6/8) of the studies produced positive predictive values when using the 5% and 14% thresholds respectively. Aggregating the data produced around the 5% normal sperm morphology threshold (strict criteria), the overall fertilization rates were 59.3% (1979/3337; per oocyte) for the < or = 4% group and 77.6% (10345/13327; per oocyte) for the >4% group, and the overall pregnancy rates were 15.2% (60/395; per cycle) and 26.0% (355/1368; per cycle) respectively. The no-transfer rates across the 5% threshold were 24.0% (86/359; per cycle) in the < or = 4% group compared to 7.4% (80/1088; per cycle) in the >4% group. The inclusion of an accurately evaluated normal sperm morphology count as an integral part of the standard semen analysis makes this analysis still the most cost-effective means of evaluating the male factor.