In spite of the five decade old debate on the merits of student samples, to date, no systematic review of the practice is undertaken. The need for such a review is warranted considering the impasse in the debate and inconsistencies among scholars in their approach to student sample usage. This paper thus presents a systematic review of student sample usage in European Marketing Research (EJM, IJRM and IMR during 2005–2014, inclusive) to highlight existing reporting practices, identify sub-domains of marketing where the usage is more prevalent and to report best practices. Results demonstrate that 99 (19.96 per cent) papers making generalization claims used student samples exclusively, had inconsistent reporting practices (e.g. demographic profile, limitations) and demonstrated trivial concern (e.g. bias estimation treatment, identification of moderators) for the implications of student sample usage on their study findings. In addition, 11 clusters representing sub-domains of marketing research and where the practice is prevalent are identified. These clusters provide novel direction to the debate on student sample usage by framing it away from the broader discipline of marketing and bringing it closer to the interests of scholars, i.e. linking it to sub-domains of marketing research. Finally, best practices related to student samples usage are reported to help academicians enhance the validity of their findings. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.