I am writing a thesis in which there is an example that will be used throughout the thesis (repeatedly) to illustrate various methods or various aspects of the theory. I will introduce the example in the first chapter and want to use an adjective for it to emphasize the fact that it will be used throughout the thesis. But I don't know the word. I'm thinking of "standing example" or "recurring example" but they don't sound right to me. Which word should I use in this case?

  • 1
    Label the example with a number. Let's say it is labeled with a 6. Then you might say 'As in example 6'. Yes, 'standing' and 'recurring' are logical choices. Can you give a couple sentences where you use 'example', that will help for more substantive synonyms.
    – Mitch
    Jun 28, 2012 at 2:15
  • In the thesis I will have several examples. However this particular example is special because it will be reused many times to illustrate the points discussed in the sections. Thus I will introduce that example in the first chapter of my thesis. I want to find a suitable adjective to emphasize that fact of this example. For instance, when I introduce the example, I may write e.g. "Let us introduce a *** example..." or "In the next section we present a *** example...", where *** will be the adjective. I think *** could be "standing" or "recurring" but I'm not very happy with these choices.
    – Truong
    Jun 28, 2012 at 2:34
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    I like the idea of using "recurring," and alerting the readers that they will be seeing that example again throughout the thesis. Somewhere as you introduce it, say something along the lines of, "This example will be recurring throughout the thesis."
    – J.R.
    Jun 28, 2012 at 2:35
  • A great deal depends on what field this is; they all have their own conventions. And what kind of thing is this example? A word? A sentence? A quotation? A steroid molecule? A Mozart sonata? An algorithm? A tree diagram? You see the problem in generalizing, I hope. Jun 28, 2012 at 2:36
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    Could you call it your "key example"? (If it's the only example that recurs and is the most important of your examples, that might work.)
    – JLG
    Jun 28, 2012 at 3:09

3 Answers 3


I guess 'running example' is also an option.

Usage: http://www.gnu.org/software/sather/docs-1.2/tutorial/employee.html

  • I think this is a good choice. A quick internet search reveals quite a number of papers and dissertations in my field using "running examples."
    – Truong
    Jun 29, 2012 at 15:37
  • Other suggestions are good too, e.g. "key example", but it seems that "running example" is more popular in my field.
    – Truong
    Jun 29, 2012 at 15:39

Though it's difficult to say without knowing a little more, such as the topic, or how the example is to be presented, these are the words that come to my mind

Standard Definitive Authoritative General Generic Average

I also like JLG's suggeston "key".


I suggest referring to it as the principal or primary example, from that sense of primary that means "That which is placed ahead of others". You'd write, "The primary [or principal] example used in this thesis is ...", and later, "Referring again to our primary [or principal] example ...", etc.

If the example is in some sense standard or definitive, consider calling it

  • a canonical example, meaning a standard or normal or prototypical presentation of something;
  • a model example, following the sense "A praiseworthy example to be copied";
  • a reference example or reference case.

If you want to emphasize that the single example covers or includes aspects from many others, you might refer to it as inclusive, all-inclusive, a catch-all or umbrella, versatile, or overarching.

All that said, if the example contains a distinctive keyword or keywords in its description, for example Westgate, then use it or them in your references. At the outset, you might say "The principal example used in this thesis is the following Westgate scenario...", and thereafter, "Referring again to Westgate, ..." or "Referring again to the Westgate scenario, ..."

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