Growing interest in the ability to conduct quantitative assays for small molecules by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) has been the driving force for several recent studies. This present work includes the investigation of internal standards for these analyses using a high-repetition rate MALDI triple quadrupole instrument. Certain physicochemical properties are assessed for predicting possible matches for internal standards for different small molecules. The importance of similar molecular weight of an internal standard to its analyte is seen through experiments with a series of acylcarnitines, having a fixed charge site and growing alkyl chain length. Both acetyl- and hexanoyl-carnitine were systematically assessed with several other acylcarnitine compounds as internal standards. The results clearly demonstrate that closely matched molecular weights between analyte and internal standard are essential for acceptable quantitation results. Using α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid as the organic matrix, the similarities between analyte and internal standard remain the most important parameter and not necessarily their even distribution within the solid sample spot. Several 4-quinolone antibiotics as well as a diverse group of pharmaceutical drugs were tested as internal standards for the 4-quinolone, ciprofloxacin. Quantitative results were shown using the solution-phase properties, log D and pKa, of these molecules. Their distribution coefficients, log D, are demonstrated as a fundamental parameter for similar crystallization patterns of analyte and internal standard. In the end, it was also possible to quantify ciprofloxacin using a drug from a different compound class, namely quinidine, having a similar log D value as the analyte. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.