Studying Economics

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Writing Essay

Writing Guidelines for Economics Term Papers

  1. Choosing a Topic

The first and most important step is choosing a suitable topic. You need to make sure your topic is not too broad since this will prevent you from writing a well-focused term paper.

It is essential to do some background reading on the topic and be sure to start this process early since it will help you determine whether or not your topic is feasible. As you search for an appropriate
topic you should run ideas by your instructor who will help you narrow the focus and identify an interesting question. Once you have chosen an appropriate topic for your paper it should be easy to formulate a clear research question.

It is important to tailor your writing based on the type of paper you are assigned. There are several different types of economics term papers that you might encounter: theoretical papers, literature surveys, empirical papers (utilizing econometrics or descriptive statistics), issue papers and case notes.

Theoretical papers typically use mathematical models to understand economic behavior, though sometimes theoretical papers might rely upon graphical models. Constructing mathematical models requires a certain level of mathematical sophistication and might prove to be difficult for most undergraduate students.

A literature survey discusses and synthesizes a set of works from (mostly) published sources that are on the topic of interest to the researcher. This type of paper requires a lot of reading and it is imperative that you gather relevant books and peer-reviewed journal articles (i.e. articles that have been published in academic journals after being reviewed by other scholars in the field). A good literature survey not only presents all the relevant ideas but also attempts to seek connections between the articles.

An empirical paper uses data to answer questions about an economic issue. Such a paper requires some background in statistics and econometrics which will enable you to analyze the data. You should postulate some hypotheses and use the data to refute or support these hypotheses. Most empirical papers also have a literature survey that outlines the contributions of previous empirical research and may include some economic theory.

An issue paper describes a policy question and outlines a position using economic analysis (presented with prose and graphs, where appropriate) to support the writer’s position. This analysis will likely be drawn from class lectures and reading, as well as additional scholarly sources. If data is available to supplement the writer’s analysis, this can also be included in the

2. Structure of the Paper

Below is a framework for writing an empirical paper, though the steps can be modified to write any of the other types of term papers you might encounter in the discipline.

I. Introduction

A. Statement of the topic and question to be analyzed.

Once you have selected a topic you should be able to state it in the form of a question that your paper seeks to provide an answer to.

B. Rationale for the choice of topic

It is important to tell the reader why you chose this topic and what makes it interesting.

C. Organization of the remainder of the paper

Outline what will be covered in the following sections of the paper to provide the reader a roadmap of the author’s arguments.

II. Body of the Paper (inclusion of these subparts and the length of each depends on the type of paper)

A. Presentation of related literature

A literature review summarizes the views of other scholars who have written on this topic. The literature review will allow you to demonstrate how other scholars have approached the topic and indicates a gap in this literature that you seek to fill. The length of the literature review depends on the type of term paper you are writing and the amount of work already written on your topic.

B. Application of Economic Theory

You should present the economic model/theory on which your paper is based. You must display mastery of the material covered in class as well as appropriate usage of economic theory. This does not mean that you have to develop your own mathematical model.
Instead, it serves as a means to demonstrate that your ideas are grounded in economic theory.

C. Analysis of Data

Firstly, provide a description of your data, including a discussion of how the variables for your empirical model are constructed and the sources of all your data. Second, you should provide summary statistics on the relevant variables in a table either in the body of
the paper or in an appendix. In the body of the paper you should include a presentation of the results of your empirical analysis and provide a careful interpretation of your findings. Your empirical analysis might entail regression (if you are familiar with econometric methods), a simple statistical analysis of the data, or even the use of graphs and charts to effectively display interesting features of the data that help support the
arguments made in the paper.

III. Conclusion

While concluding the paper, you should restate the objective of the paper. Following this, you should provide your conclusions taking care to distinguish your contribution from the existing literature on the topic.

3. References

A. News Articles versus Scholarly References:
You may certainly read sources like The New York Times and The Economist in order to do some background reading on a policy issue. However, these sources are not peer-reviewed and therefore are not suitable for a research paper. EconLit, an online database for economics journal articles and books, is an excellent point from which to initiate a search for scholarly literature. Note that it is not appropriate to use open-source online
encyclopedias such as Wikipedia.

B. Formatting of References (plus information on parenthetical citations and footnotes):
Economics journals typically require a documentation style that combines parenthetical citations with the so-called Chicago/Turabian format for references and footnotes, and this is what we require for your papers. The parenthetical citations provide limited information about your sources and complete bibliographic information about each source is provided in a separate references page. Footnotes are used to incorporate additional material that is pertinent but supplemental to the statements presented in the text.

C. Academic Honesty:
Be warned of the dangers of plagiarism.

4. Miscellaneous Details

I. Outline

We advocate that you write an outline for the paper before you begin to writing the paper following the “Structure of the Paper” guidelines.

A useful outline usually takes some time to put together, but will save you plenty of time and effort when you sit down to write the paper and will also result in a more coherent paper.

II. Some Formatting Rules

  • All margins should be one inch.
  • Use a standard type face in 12 point font.
  • Indent your paragraphs.
  • Double space the text; single space footnotes, endnotes and long quotations.
  • Single space within each reference entry and double space between reference entries.
  • Since hyperlinked items are often underlined, use italics, rather than underlining, for titles of books and periodicals.
  • Do not attach a cover page

III. Graphs and Charts

Graphs and charts should have numbers (such as Figure 1 or Table 1) and titles. The source of the data should be indicated at the bottom of the graph or chart. You may either insert the graphs and charts in the body of the paper or include them in an appendix to the paper. Graphs may be neatly hand drawn or you may use a drawing tool included in your word processing software.

IV. Proofreading and Revision

Use the spell-check feature of your word processing software, but do not use it as your sole proofreading measure! Carefully read your draft to eliminate the spelling errors that the spell checker misses, to correct awkward and/or repetitive phrases, and to reorganize your sentences and paragraphs to improve the flow of the paper and eliminate redundancies.
After a careful revision, we recommend that you have another person read the paper, too.

Source: A Concise Guide to Writing Economics Term Papers, Raechelle Mascarenhas and Jan Crouter, Department of Economics- Whitman College

Click to access writingtips.pdf

How to become a successful economist?

What qualities do you need to become a good economist?

1. Mathematical aptitude. Numeracy is a key skill for an economist. From dealing with large numerical datasets to interpreting visual data like graphs, you’ll need to be comfortable handling numbers and working with mathematical principles. This is why many economists take preparatory classes in mathematics before beginning work or study in economics.

2. Knowledge of social sciences. But mathematics is not all you need to be a successful economist. Economics also has a lot of common ground with other social science subjects like psychology, history, and sociology. Having a working knowledge of both the factual basis of these subjects and the methods used in them is beneficial for economists who will be working in related topics.

3. Good at understanding complex systems. The fact is that economics is a complex subject which looks at complex systems. You’ll need to be able to pull together information from different sources and different fields in order to be able to work with these complex systems.

4. Curious. In order to be successful as a student, professor, or researcher, you need to have a strong sense of curiosity. What is unknown or unclear in your field? How do insights from other fields affect the understanding of your subject? What topics are up for debate, and what are the arguments on each side? An interest in these questions is needed to motivate you to work your way through economics.

5. Independent thinker. While it’s obviously important to have knowledge of other people’s work and theories, to be truly successful as an economist you also need to have insights and ideas of your own. The ability to think for yourself and to question what you know will allow you to take new directions and to come up with original research which will make you a better economist.

6. Comfort with uncertainty. You will need to be comfortable with uncertainty, as not every question in this field has a clear and unambiguous answer.

7. Written skills. It’s no good having a great understanding of economics unless you can communicate that understanding to other people in a way which is meaningful. Good written skills are essential for making sure that your articles, book chapters, and notes are useful and comprehensible to others.

8. Verbal communication skills. As well as written communication skills, you’ll also need to be an effective presenter so that you can speak at conferences and teach classes. You should be comfortable speaking in front of an audience and able to convey the essential points of your subject clearly and concisely.

9. Open minded. For success in any academic field, you need to be open-minded. It’s important that you are open to new ideas and do not become too set in your perspective. You need to be able to hear the views of others and to engage productively with them even if you disagree with their reasoning. A debate with a colleague can be a highly instructive experience, but only if you are open to hearing their views and to adjusting your own opinions where necessary.

10. Self-driven. Something else that’s important for academics, including economists, is the ability to motivate oneself. From postgraduate studies onwards you will be expected to manage your own time and set your own priorities, so you need to be able to push yourself to complete tasks without anyone else checking in on you or supporting you.