One of the comments I received on my journal paper was that it lacks a "running example":

the paper would benefit much from a running example that could be used in the introduction to motivate the idea and referred to in later sections to illustrate algorithms

I understand the idea of an example that works like a backbone throughout the paper and connects all the ideas and sections in order to make them easier to understand.

Now my question is, do we call it "running example" or does it have any other term? I would like to add a brief on the example at the end of the introduction, but I'm baffled with what should I call it.

Note: my field is computer science, but I believe this applies to some other areas too.

  • 7
    The term is "running example" - which you seem to already know. I don't understand the question.
    – ff524
    Feb 3, 2015 at 5:51
  • @ff524 My question, is it suitable to use the wording "running example". For example (... referring to our running example, we can apply x .... etc).
    – Hawk
    Feb 3, 2015 at 6:00
  • 2
    Yes, perfectly suitable.
    – ff524
    Feb 3, 2015 at 6:01
  • 1
    Running example, or illustrative example.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 3, 2015 at 6:51
  • Alternatively, MacGuffin. (But don't use it in a real paper).
    – Davidmh
    Feb 3, 2015 at 9:25

2 Answers 2


When I use a running example (as I frequently do), I just call it a running example. I don't know any reason why that wouldn't be a good enough term.



Having done a quick search across peer-reviewed papers and so on there aren't many examples of 'running examples' jumping out...

Notably, the only paper in the search to feature 'running example' in the title clarifies its meaning (as a 'case study', which is the term I'd use and which is surely more readily understood...)

A Running Example for Use in a Class on Design of Experiments

by Kowalski, Scott

Classroom discussion is an effective way for students to interact and learn. A class on design of experiments usually covers many related design strategies. It can be useful to have one running example (similar to a case study) that can be used throughout the class to extend earlier topics to later more complex topics. This article presents one such running example that studies plant growth mostly in a greenhouse. The greenhouse experiment begins with a simple t-test and ends with response surface methodology. In between, most of the standard topics covered in a one-semester design of experiments class are discussed. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

You can also see, although it pertains to books more so than publications, that according to Google NGRAM viewer a "case study" is by far the more common term.

  • 3
    Please don't call it a case study. While lithic is correct that the term "case study" is frequently used, it is a quite well-defined research method that implies much more than just using a common example to use in a paper.
    – xLeitix
    Nov 19, 2016 at 20:44
  • I think it's a matter of field here, as in computer science where an algorithm is tested (?) then a running example seems more suitable than a case study. In other fields, like biological ones, running example as a term probably makes very little sense.
    – BioGeo
    Nov 21, 2016 at 21:42

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