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Lecture 10: writing & presentation, Various issues. Ec831 , David Reinstein. Supervisors. You cannot change your supervisor. (Exceptions only in extreme situations).

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You cannot change your supervisor. (Exceptions only in extreme situations).

You may seek help on economic and module-relevant questions from your other lecturers, but do not ask them to give direct advice on your project.

If you schedule an appointment, show up on time please. If you don’t show up to an appointment, this will count against your 4 hours.

You want to make a good impression on your supervisor; you may want to ask him or her for a reference.

Your supervisor may not know everything about your topic, but he/she has a broad background in Economics and a great deal of experience. Each member of staff may have a different approach to supervising; there is no one ‘correct method.’

A supervisor’s suggestions will not usually be a straightforward “do this in exactly this way.” He/she will try to make you aware of important issues and concerns, point you in the direction of relevant literature, and offer you suggestions for potential approaches.

But you will have to think and act for yourself. There are a lot of difficult choices you will have to make, and justify.

“The second most frequent issue is that they think they are supposed to get a 'right' answer. They stress out when the regression doesn't come out 'right'.”

– University of Essex lecturer

word count
Word count
  • Word count: 3000 words max including project plan. I suggest 400-500 words for the project plan
the checklist
The checklist

Includes botha Literature Review and a Project Plan

Name and Registration number head first page, title question on first page

Incorporates your supervisor’s suggestions (to the extent possible) as well as the general advice given in EC831 lectures

Your own work. All sources properly cited. Avoid committing an academic offence*

“List of Works Cited” properly constructed **

Clearly organised and structured

Literature review critically examines claims made by other authors

Project plan clarifies your question, explains potential approaches to answering it, describes your plan of action, cites potential data sources (if relevant)

Spelling and grammar checked using built-in tools

Readable: Proofread by yourself and someone else

11-2 point typeface, standard font, double or 1.5 spaced text. Page numbers appear, Margins and paragraph spacings appropriately constructed (“looks nice”).

Submit as either Word (doc or docx) or pdf format

* Check the rules and seek advice if you have any doubts.

** (a) list of references appears in a bibliography at the end; (b) every citation is referenced; (c) every reference is cited at least once.


There are a variety of MSc and “1+3” programmes at Essex, including some new ones.

New offerings include:

  • MSc Computational Economics, Financial Markets and Policy – new for 2013
  • MSc Money and Banking - new for 2014
  • MSc Behavioural Economics - new for 2014

See http://www.essex.ac.uk/economics/study/pgt/default.aspx

some resources left off last week s slides
Some resources (Left off last week’s slides)
  • ECONOMICS 452 TIME SERIESWITHSTATA -- econ.queensu.ca/faculty/gregory/econ452/manual.pdf‎
  • 2 Working with economic and financial data in Stata(Chris Baum)

Kennedy, A Guide to Econometrics, Chapter 18, “Time Series Econometrics”

Wooldridge, IntroductoryEconometrics

the process of researching while writing
The process of “researching while writing”
  • Writing is an inseparable part of the research process. “Write early rather than late” -McCloskey
  • Slogging through: Keep a positive attitude, but don’t rest on your laurels
  • Do not wait till the last moment … not in doing your writing, or your data work or your presentation of results
  • Don't be a perfectionist who ends up writing half a paper – write an OK paper, and then make a good paper, and then make it great paper.

“The perfect is the enemy of the good”

“[Writing] begins with mere fluency, getting the stuff down on paper. And it ends with revising again and again, until you've removed all the traps and ugliness. …[Sitting] down to write can be a problem, for it is then that your subconscious, which is dismayed by the anxiety of filling up blank pieces of paper, suggests [goofing off or doing any other type of chore]. [Fight] doubt -- the conviction that everything you've done so far is rubbish-will wash over you from time to time. … The only help is a cheerful faith that more work will raise even this rubbish up to your newly acquired standards. Irrational cheerfulness is hard to teach but good to have for any work.”


learn from the feedback you have received
Learn from the feedback you have received
  • On your literature review and project plan
  • On previous previous term papers too
  • Remember to learn from your dissertation for your later life.
  • Your project dissertation may be a valuable writing sample. You might even keep working on it and ultimately build it it into a published paper!
adapt improve


What are you missing? How can you adapt? How can you improve?

six rules for clear writing
Six rules for clear writing:

(i) Avoid using metaphors, similes, or other figures of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Think of fresh ones wherever you can.

(ii) Prefer short words to long ones.

(iii) Try cutting a lot of your word-count, especially those words that add little extra meaning.

(iv) Don’t over-use the passive voice. And whether passive or active, be clear who did what to whom.

(v) Prefer everyday English to foreign, scientific or jargon words.

(vi) Good writing is no place for the tyrant. Never say “never” and always avoid “always”, or at the least handle them with care. Overusing such words is an invitation for critics to hold you to your own impossible standard.

-- From The Economist online (Prospero blog, “Johnson: Those six little rules”, July 29, 2013).  Many years ago George Orwell famously proposed six rules for writing (“Politics and the English Language”, 1946).  While much revered, Orwell’s rules are now regarded as overly strict – even Orwell failed to comply on occasion – hence the revised list, above


In general, avoid giving your opinions without evidence or outside references. If you are giving an opinion, it needs to be stated as such.

opinions look like
Opinions look like

“Sadly, this is true.”

 Don’t be sad

As the shadow Mayor of Birmingham spoke in 2009 “The economic stagnation and cuts being imposed by the Liberal government inevitably create social tension.”

Although this is given as a quote, the student wrote “as the shadow Mayor … spoke” indicating the author considers this point to be true.


With the Atlantian national debt increasing at extortionate rates, public finances were beginning to run out of control. ‘Estimates suggest that the total debt will rise from 57 per cent to 87 per cent of GDP by 2017’

Areas such as work-study and other work based education need to be fully used to increase the efficiency of the future labour market. Training and education is key in any form and the government can provide the funding and knowledge to do this

The answer, as John Smith, Minister of the Cabinet pointed out on January 1st in the Committee room on Public Policy, has so far been negative: “I don’t think we can ever reach this situation”. Even though he should be in favour of such engagements he is not.


Even opinions that might seem widely accepted are still inappropriate in the research context:

    • Women’s participation in the labour market plays a key role in development. As women represent over half of society, it is necessary for both sexes to be involved equally in economic activities to satisfy economic needs.

Avoid making overly strong claims; be cautious

    • Although this has a positive effect in helping in deficit reduction there are consequences that the economy has to face because of this. Robbery rates have increased tremendously, because of the lack of police on the streets of New Zealand a lower number of criminals are being caught and the economy is suffering.
    • Thirdly this essay is going to display why private volunteer efforts are more effective than a lump sum tax, for example because it reduces the incentive to work for private individuals of a society.
    • Tuition fees are charged by secondary schools to support with funding of staff and faculty and provide an efficient student learning experience.
how we will evaluate the paper
How we will evaluate the paper

We consider a number of factors.

Demonstrating sophistication, originality, and economic understanding is key. But if you don’t express yourself clearly, you will not convey this.

We cannot mark what is in your head, only what is on the paper (and what we can understand of this).

Suggested Mark: 60

A good bit of digging into the data and the statistics. The literature review was reasonable, and she gets at many of the main points. However much of the discussion is confused or hard to follow, and she also seems not to understand certain key points. (Empirical analysis is very simplistic. There are several non sequiturs and technical terms used incorrectly. She dwells on COUNTRY which is an outlier. There is a lot of listing of facts without a clear synthesis. It would have benefited from a multivariate regression at least.

Mark: 56

The discussion is fairly interesting and there is some good detail. However, reports from GOVERNMENT AGENCIES are not treated with the requisite amount of skepticism. Overall, the discussion is too informal. Economic concepts are alluded to that should be presented more formally and precisely. In some cases more economic rigor could avoid much confusion and conclusions that seem to be drawn without evidence and non sequiturs. The accounting exercise at the and is interesting, but it is far from a careful data analysis. The student should have engaged more with the empirical literature.

Suggested Mark: 75

She has put a lot of effort in a careful analysis of difficult to use data. She offers a good discussion of key econometric issues. It also brings in a very thorough literature review, and mentions the human capital theory stuff. She does do something wrong entertains something is wrong, such as the idea of "testing" for endogeneity, and the idea that models and techniques have been "rejected." Her use of occupational controls is also problematic. However she does a lot right and has a fairly intelligent discussion.

Mark suggested: 57

Comments: Writing needs a lot of polish. Some good insights in the literature review, but overall the discussion suggests a flawed understanding of some basic statistical and econometric ideas.

Paper shows a good deal of work with data and regressions, ability to work with the data set

Plan not integrated into text.

Much is unclear.

Results listed rather than summarised and organized. Too much seems “pasted in.”

Regression results hard to read – not presented in a standard way.

Causality not well discussed.

Mark suggested: 70

Well written, some good points made, particular in the literature survey.

Some simple econometric concepts stated wrongly. Some specific details about data, regressions, left unstated. Missing summary statistics. Results (e.g., elasticities) interpreted incorrectly.

Overall, pretty good use of data and application of economic theory.

Mark suggested: 70

Well written, some good points made, particular in the literature survey.

Some simple econometric concepts stated wrongly. Some specific details about data, regressions, left unstated. Missing summary statistics. Results (e.g., elasticities) interpreted incorrectly.

Overall, pretty good use of data and application of economic theory.

Suggested mark – 65

Organised. Good discussion and literature review. Some arts incompletely or inaccurately presented.

Good writing overall.

Econometrics: Lack of a time trend term (or other technique to deal with such time series issues) is a major problem with regression analysis.

Regression output not correctly interpreted. Where are the elasticity calculations?


Suggested mark – 47

Some interesting ideas but very poorly organised, not well explained. Needs more economic rigour and clarity, better structure. References not properly done.

Much of paper is extremely vague.

Enforcement (2nd part of topic) not fully addressed.

frequent marking comments especially on literature surveys
Frequent marking comments (especially on literature surveys)

What is the focal question?

Read related literature. See what other authors have written on this. Consider other opinions and arguments on this point.

Look at related articles in peer-reviewed journals to see how to format or express this.

You need to better explain the cited literature

You should to better relate the cited literature to this paper

You needs to better consider the empirical literature that answers this question and related questions, and explain the techniques used, and how these may or may not be applied to the current paper.

… Another empirical study made by Smith et al.(2010) also found that the stringent labour standards for agricultural produce imposed by the European Union lead to significant losses for the African producers.

How did these authors do their analysis? What data and techniques did they use? Explain the precise nature and strength of their findings.

You need to explain theoretical models more clearly and formally

the grand farewell
The grand farewell

Good luck and have fun out there!