Working papers (also known as discussion papers, research papers, and briefing papers) are used to encourage discussion and share ideas about a topic within a particular community. Some working papers may be in the pre-publication stage, so have been submitted to a journal but have not yet been accepted.

We’re often asked in MIRC how to reference working papers as they don’t fall into the standard item types. Here’s our guidance on how to reference a working paper using the Harvard style used at Cranfield University:

What to include in the reference:

  • Author(s) (surname, initials) or organisation/institution
  • (Year of publication)
  • Title
  • Working paper series and/or number (if available)
  • Place of publication: Publisher (if available)

If accessing online, add:

  • Available at: URL/DOI
  • (Accessed: date)

As you can see, the format for a working paper is similar to that of a book or report reference. If the paper comes from a recognised series, which many of them will, include the series and number after the title. Remember to provide as much information as possible so that the reader can locate the paper themselves, but note that some information may simply not be available.

Here are some examples of what your bibliographic references might look like:

Burke, A.E., van Stel, A. J. and Thurik, R. (2009) Blue Ocean Versus Competitive Strategy: Theory and Evidence. ERIM Report Series Reference No. ERS-2009-030-ORG. Available at:

Burke, A. E. and van Stel, A. J. (2009) The Entrepreneurial Adjustment Process in Disequilibrium. Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper No. 09-005/3. Available at:

Lins, K, Servaes, H and Tamayo, A. (2015) Social Capital, Trust, and Firm Performance during the Financial Crisis. London: Centre for Economic Policy Research.

Malter, D. (2014) Eclipsed and Confounded Identities: When High-Status Affiliations Impede Organizational Growth. Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 15-019. Available at (Accessed: 10 February 2015).

Sweeney, M, T. (2000) Linking competitive and generic manufacturing strategies. Cranfield School of Management Working Paper Series SWP 9/00. Cranfield School of Management: Cranfield University. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2015).

As always if you have any questions about referencing, pop into MIRC or contact us.