Working Paper Guidelines


Working papers play a key role in the dissemination of knowledge developed by MSI-associated researchers. These working papers are intended to provide new perspectives on perennial and future marketing challenges and to offer directions for further action and research.

These papers target both practitioners and researchers, and we place a premium on clear, readable writing as well as careful research and analysis. We have prepared these guidelines to help our prospective authors develop papers that will be useful to our readers and have a significant impact on marketing thinking and practice.

Before You Begin Writing

Answering a few questions before you begin writing will help you determine the style, level, and focus of your presentation.

  • Who is the target audience for your paper, and why should people be interested in your subject?
  • What business problem or issue are you addressing?
  • What is the message of your paper, and why should it matter to busy readers?
  • How does the evidence you have gathered make your argument credible and persuasive?
  • What data and ideas merit emphasis? Which are of secondary or little importance? Look for the “Aha’s!” in your data and stress them.
  • What actions do you want your readers to take as a result of reading your paper?

Writing Your Paper

As you begin to write, imagine that you are presenting your ideas to executives, or to students in class. As in these situations, your goals are to engage audience interest, to present clear information, to teach and persuade, and to inspire questions, ideas, and actions. The following suggestions for organizing and presenting your paper can help you achieve these goals.

Introducing Your Paper. Identify the business/marketing problem you are exploring, why it matters, and what is new and helpful about your findings. Then tell readers what they will learn if they read through the rest of the paper.

Bring the issue to life. The field of marketing is about people—their behavior, attitudes, actions, and decisions. You might want to consider using a story or anecdote or two to open the paper. Or try posing the issue as a challenging question. You may want to include quotations from managers you interviewed during your research where possible.

The introduction is also an opportunity to prepare your reader for what lies ahead, describing the direction and highlights of the discussion to come. Give the reader an overview of the purpose and conduct of your study. Note that none of the approaches suggested here requires extensive referencing of the literature.

By the time readers finish the introduction they should know the following:

  • The issue you studied and why it matters to them
  • The purpose and main features of your study
  • What topics and themes will be explored in the pages to come
  • What key results you uncovered and whether they are “obvious” or unexpected/interesting

Presenting Your Evidence. The middle section of MSI papers usually gives the scientific basis for the report. It is the place to explain how you conducted and interpreted your research. A careful, well-reasoned discussion gives credibility and weight to your argument, providing a sound basis for better business practice and further study.

Because the content of the middle section of the paper is usually complex and technical, it is important to make your presentation as accessible and efficient (short) as possible. Here are some suggestions:

  • Explain the logic behind your research method—the steps you took and why you took them. Use the active voice.
  • Present the material in a sequence that is easy to follow.
  • Show how your analysis of the data led to your insights and conclusions.
  • Use simple analyses where possible and put highly technical material in appendices.
  • Distinguish between data and ideas that must be developed in the text, and those that can be more efficiently presented in a table, figure, or appendix.
  • Include only the information that is important for readers to know.
  • Refer to relevant research and theory but keep the literature review as short as possible when the study is empirical.
  • Use headings to direct readers to the sections that are of greatest interest to them.

Concluding Your Paper. Like the introduction, the conclusion is an opportunity to motivate and inspire. Use it to look back and ahead. In addition to briefly reviewing the most important points covered, be speculative. Explain how your work helps advance understanding of your subject and creates new opportunities for practitioners and researchers. Try to answer these questions:

  • How might your findings and interpretations affect and alter strategies, behavior, and practices in companies?
  • What are the limitations of your study, and what aspects of your topic need further study?
  • What is the next step for practitioners and researchers?

Report Summary

An essential part of every MSI working paper is the summary that prefaces each report. The summary should answer each of the questions outlined in “Before You Begin Writing,” above. It should frame the managerial issue or business question that is addressed in your study, briefly describe the study approach and methodology, and highlight key findings and insights. The concluding paragraph(s) of the summary should discuss the implications of your findings for managers: what action might your readers take as a result of reading your report?

Manuscript Preparation

References. Please check all references carefully. All text citations must be fully listed as references at the end of the paper, and all references listed must be cited in the text. Follow the author-date reference style used by the academic journals in the field. Here are some examples:

Berry, Leonard L., and A. Parasuraman (1991), Marketing Services: Competing Through Quality. New York: The Free Press.

Journal article:
Deshpandé, Rohit (1982), “The Organizational Context of Market Research Use.” Journal of Marketing 46 (Fall), 91-101.

Book chapter:
Thaler, Richard (1987), “The Psychology of Choice and the Assumptions of Economics.” In Laboratory Experimentation in Economics: Six Points of View, ed. Alvin E. Roth, 50-60. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Be selective in using references. It is usually not necessary to provide an exhaustive review of the literature in a working paper.

Please provide an editable electronic version of your report. Tables and equations should be in Microsoft Word, and figures saved as jpegs or tiff files.


The purpose of the series is to provide MSI members and academics early access to the research results. Therefore, the paper should be submitted to MSI well before submission to a professional journal. Papers submitted that are already accepted at journals are, in general, “too late” to be appropriate for the working paper series.

Terms and Conditions

The following terms and conditions govern working papers accepted by Marketing Science Institute for publication:

1.) Copyright. The copyright of the Work will be in the name of the Researcher.

2.) Grant of Rights and Territory. The Researcher grants and assigns to MSI, during the full term of copyright and all extensions or renewals thereof, the nonexclusive right to print, publish, sell, license and otherwise disseminate the Work as a working paper in the English language or in any other language throughout the world; and the Researcher grants and assigns said rights to MSI for said term on an exclusive basis with respect to the version of the Work that is finally edited, and approved for publication, by MSI. For purposes of this Agreement, the term “working paper” will mean a work of original research that is not published as a refereed work. The rights granted to MSI include without limitation the right to publish, disseminate, transmit or broadcast the Work in whole, in selected or edited parts or in summary or condensed form, in print or by audio, audio-visual or electronic forms, whether now known or hereafter created, and the right to license others to do so.

3.) Reserved Rights. All rights in the Work now existing, or which may hereafter come into existence, except those hereby specifically granted to MSI, are reserved to and by the Researcher for the Researcher’s use. It is understood and agreed that the Researcher will have the right to publish, or authorize others to publish, the Work as a refereed work in a scholarly journal or other publication.

4.) Researcher’s Warranty and Indemnity. The Researcher warrants to MSI that the Researcher is the sole author of the Work; that the Work is original (except for any material from previously copyrighted Work obtained by permission or assignment); that the Work has not been previously published, is not in the public domain and does not infringe upon any statutory copyright or upon any common law copyright, proprietary right or any other right; that the Work contains no matter which is libelous, in violation of any right of privacy or otherwise contrary to the law; that all information therein, including charts, graphs, tables and the like, is true and accurate to the best of the Researcher’s knowledge and belief; that the Researcher is the sole and exclusive owner of the rights herein conveyed to MSI and has not previously assigned, pledged or otherwise encumbered the same; and that the Researcher has full power to enter into this Agreement and to make the grants herein contained. The foregoing warranties will be true and accurate as of the date of the Researcher’s initial submission of the Work to MSI, as of the publication of the Work and at all intervening times. The Researcher will indemnify MSI and its officers and directors for any losses or expenses which any of them incur in connection with any claim or action alleging facts which, if true, would constitute a breach of any of the foregoing warranties. The provisions of this section will survive termination of MSI’s agreement to publish the Work.

5.) Manuscript. The Researcher will prepare the Work in accordance with MSI’s “MSI Working Paper Guidelines.” The Researcher will supply at the Researcher’s own expense all captions, charts, graphs, tables or the like deemed necessary to the Work by MSI. If copyrighted material is included in the Work, the Researcher, at the Researcher’s own expense, will secure from the copyright owners written permission to reprint said material in the Work. The Researcher authorizes MSI to make the manuscript of the Work conform to its standard style in punctuation, spelling, capitalization and usage.

6.) Publication. MSI will publish the Work as a part of MSI’s working paper series within twelve (12) months of receipt and acceptance by MSI of the final manuscript of the Work, including captions, charts, graphs, tables and the like as provided in section 5, provided that said period will be extended on account of delays from causes beyond the control of MSI. Should MSI fail to publish the Work before the expiration of said period, as extended on account of any such delays, its failure to do so will be deemed cause for the Researcher, if the Researcher so desires, to terminate MSI’s rights to publish the Work.

7.) Researcher’s Copies of the Work. MSI will give to each Researcher on publication one copy of the Work.

8.) Researcher’s Name. MSI may use the Researcher’s name and pertinent biographical information in connection with the advertising and promotion of the Work.

9.) Consideration. The Researcher acknowledges that MSI’s undertaking to publish the Work as a working paper constitutes full and sufficient consideration for the Researcher’s grant of rights and other agreements herein and that the Researcher will not be provided any royalties or other form of consideration relating to publication of the Work.

10.) Multiple Researchers; Lead Researcher. In the event that multiple researchers are authors of the Work, the term “Researcher” as used in these Terms and Conditions will mean any and all such researchers, and the individual designated in MSI’s letter of acceptance of the Work for publication as the “Lead Researcher” will have full power and authority on behalf of all such researchers, as agent of each of them, to receive notices, grant approvals or consents or otherwise exercise powers or rights provided to the Researcher under these Terms and Conditions for Working Papers.

11.) Miscellaneous. MSI’s letter of acceptance of the Work for publication and these Terms and Conditions for Working Papers contain the complete agreement of the parties with respect to the Work. The parties’ agreement may be modified or amended only by written instrument executed by both parties. It will be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the executors, administrators, successors or assigns of each party, provided that, the Researcher may not assign any of the Researcher’s rights, or subcontract any of the Researcher’s duties, to any third party. The parties’ agreement will be governed by the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts without regard to choice-of-law provisions, and state or federal courts located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have exclusive jurisdiction to resolve any disputes concerning the same. Time is of the essence in the Researcher’s performance.