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IMBA Thesis Workshop Class 1. P. Schuhmann, Spring 2012 Lecture material based on the work of Steven Greenlaw : Doing Economics: A Guide to Understanding and Carrying Out Economic Research , Steven A. Greenlaw , 2006. Houghton Mifflin Co. Available for purchase here:

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    imba thesis workshop class 1

    IMBA Thesis WorkshopClass 1

    P. Schuhmann, Spring 2012

    Lecture material based on the work of Steven Greenlaw:

    Doing Economics: A Guide to Understanding and Carrying Out Economic Research, Steven A. Greenlaw, 2006. Houghton Mifflin Co.

    Available for purchase here:

    thesis outline
    Thesis outline
    • Title
    • Abstract
    • Table of contents
    • Acknowledgements
    • Introduction
    • Literature review
    • Theory
    • Data
    • Methods
    • Results
    • Discussion & conclusions
    • References
    • Appendices
    thesis workshop outline
    Thesis Workshop Outline

    1. An Overview of Research& the Research Process

    • What do we mean by “Original Research”?
    • Researchmethodologies
    • Elements of a good research question
    • Writing and evaluating a research proposal
    • Steps in writing a thesis
    • Writing mechanics and features of good writing
    thesis workshop outline1
    Thesis Workshop Outline

    2. Reviewing the Literature on a Research Topic

    • Searching: Google scholar is your friend (but not your only friend)
    • Critical reading
    • Summarizing your readings: 5 questions to answer for each paper
    • How to create an annotated bibliography
    • When do I stop reading?
    thesis workshop outline2
    Thesis Workshop Outline

    3. How to create a readable literature review: The Literature Review section of your thesis

    • Guiding the reader to your research question: The inverted pyramid
    • References and citation styles

    4.Making a “contribution to the literature”

    • Types of contributions
    • Identifying gaps in the literature
    • Designing a research study
    thesis workshop outline3
    Thesis Workshop Outline

    5. Locating (and Collecting) Data

    • Sources of data
    • Steps in constructing a data set
    • Characteristics of good data sets
    • Real vs. nominal magnitudes
    • Index numbers
    • Cleaning and transforming data
    • Identifying and handling outliers
    thesis workshop outline4
    Thesis Workshop Outline

    6. Describing your data: The Data section of your thesis

    • Descriptive statistics
    • Frequency distributions and histograms
    • Smoothing
    • Writing and about your data
      • Describing sources, transformations, distributions and outliers
    • Important tables to include in your Data section
    thesis workshop outline5
    Thesis Workshop Outline

    7. Analysis of data: The Methods section of your thesis

    • Alternative methods for hypothesis testing
    • Choosing an appropriate method
    • Specifying your empirical model
    • Consideration of expected signs: The importance of explaining the theory

    8. An introduction to regression analysis in SAS

    • Brief review of regression analysis
    • More data transformations?
    • Problems with regression: Diagnosis and treatment
    • Limited dependent variable models
    thesis workshop outline6
    Thesis Workshop Outline

    9. Reporting your findings: The Results section of your thesis

    • Summarizing the results of hypothesis tests
    • What if I accept the null?
    • Important Tables to include in the Results section

    10. The Discussion section of your thesis

    • Discussing the implications of your findings
    • Closing the loop: Connecting your paper to the literature

    11. Summarize and conclude

    • Tell the reader what you told the reader
    • Limitations of your efforts
    • Future work
    an overview of research the research process
    An Overview of Research& the Research Process

    Which of the following best describes the idea of “research”?

    • The search for knowledge
    • The acquisition of knowledge
    • The reporting of knowledge
    • The creation of knowledge
    an overview of research the research process1
    An Overview of Research& the Research Process

    Greenlaw defines research as the creation of knowledge.

    A more complete definition includes notions of investigation, study and inquiry …

    Before we can create new knowledge, we must first establish a set of facts and understand the knowledge regarding what those facts mean (and what they don’t mean).

    • Facts = data
    • Knowledge = interpretation of the meaning of facts by creating logical arguments
      • “Arguments” here refers to a point of view or position on what something means, based on reason and evidence.
      • Note: your thesis will include both facts and knowledge. You will report the facts in a section called “Results” and you will interpret them in a section called “Discussion”.
    facts and knowledge
    Facts and knowledge


    • Facts:
      • Return tourists comprise 35% of tourist arrivals in Barbados
      • Tourism is directly responsible for 15% of GDP and is indirectly responsible for approximately 65% of GDP
      • Approximately 25% of tourists use public access points to get to the beach
      • Beaches near public access points in Barbados have significantly more litter than beaches near large private hotels
      • Tourists who encounter higher levels of litter are less likely to return
    facts and knowledge1
    Facts and knowledge


    • Knowledge:
      • Spending on beach clean-up efforts near public access points and public education regarding the economic importance of clean beaches will provide a higher quality tourism product and result in higher probability of return visitation.
    • Research can be directed toward new discovery or toward confirmation of earlier discovery.
      • Confirmatory research may be less sexy, but is not less important.
      • E.g. Schuhmann et al. (2009) discovered that divers are willing to pay up to US$20 for additional marine turtle sightings in Barbados.
      • Cazabon et al. (2012) confirmed this result in Tobago.
      • Gill et al. confirmed this result in Honduras, Belize and St. Kitts.
    confirmatory research
    Confirmatory research
    • Based on an existing hypothesis, confirmatory research may include:
      • Applying an existing model or theory to new data (data from a different country or market, data from a different time period)
      • Adding variables to an existing model or theory
      • Testing an existing model or theory with a previously unused methodology
    exploratory research
    Exploratory research
    • New discovery
    • Does not begin with a particular hypothesis to be tested.
    • The analyst uses data to uncover the “truth”, and subsequently creates theory/hypothesis/explanation.

    Whether exploratory or confirmatory in nature, whether based on the examination of existing facts & data or based on newly acquired facts & data, creating new knowledge requires:

    • A systematic examination of existing facts and knowledge
    • Conclusions based on reason and/or empirical evidence
    your thesis will create new knowledge
    Your thesis will create new knowledge

    “I’ve just started learning about this material that people with PhD’s have been studying for decades. How can I be expected to create something new?”

    • Your research does not have to result in a path breaking, earth shattering discovery.
    • Most original research results in only marginal improvements in our understanding of the world.
    • Marginal improvements are very important.
    • Without research such as yours, the path breaking, earth shattering discoveries cannot take place.
    • E.g. “saving the world from ecosystem destruction”
    research methodologies

    How to create knowledge?

    • Scientific methods vs. non-scientific methods
    • Non-Scientific methods include intuition and opinion
      • Subject to personal or professional bias
    research methodologies1

    The scientific method aims to minimize subjectivity:

    • Choose an area of interest
    • Choose a problem or research question in that area
    • Review the existing facts and knowledge
    • Apply theory to create a hypothesis about that problem or question
    • Test the hypothesis by comparing its predictions to evidence based on real world data
    • Accept or reject your hypothesis
    • Test it again in a different context
    • Interpret the results and draw conclusions
    the scientific method
    The scientific method
    • Each step is fraught with pitfalls that may cause you to return to the beginning of the process.
      • E.g. after reviewing the literature you may need to revise your research question
      • E.g. after retrieving available data, you may need to reformulate your research question or method for testing your hypothesis
    • The scientific method is often iterative and repetitive rather than linear.
    operationalizing the scientific method
    Operationalizing the scientific method

    Elements of an empirical thesis:

    • The research topic
    • The research question
    • The hypothesis
    • The data set
    • The methodology
    the research question
    The research question

    The research question should be problem-oriented

    • i.e. the aim of a good research question is to explain some aspect of your research area (rather than simply describe it).
    • Trying to fit the word “why” into observations from your research area will help you identify good research questions.
    the problem oriented research question
    The problem-orientedresearch question

    For example, consider the following questions:

    What types of firms successfully navigated the financial crisis?

    Why did certain firms do better than others during the financial crisis?

    the research question1
    The research question

    The research question should be investigative and diagnostic.

    • Investigative: you will study the processes in your research area.
    • Diagnostic: you will explore the nature and degree of cause-and-effect relationships within those processes.

    Example: What happened during the financial crisis? How did different types of firms react? How did those reactions correlate to success?

    the research question2
    The research question

    The research question should be interesting to you and to your audience.

    • Choose an area and a topic within that area that makes you think.
    • Choose an area that others find notable.
      • One with alternative theories
      • One with no consensus
      • One with important implications
    the research question3
    The research question

    The research question should be amenable to empirical analysis.

    • Can you conceptualize the research question in the context of a regression model (or some other empirical method for testing)?
    • Can the variables of concern be measured?
    • Is there data that would allow you to estimate such a model?
    the research question4
    The research question

    The research question should be feasible given your time and resource constraints.

    • This is largely driven by the availability of data
    • Don’t try to do too much
    • Be prepared to change
    steps in developing a thesis topic
    Steps in developing a thesis topic
    • Exploration & critical reading in your subject area
    • List research questions and their answers
    • Identify gaps, weaknesses, areas for improvement
    • Conceptualize a research question
    • Search again
    • Conceptualize an empirical model
    • Search for data
    your research proposal
    Your research proposal

    When you have a grasp on the following, and have much of it written down, you are probably prepared to defend your proposal:

    • What is the topic area?
    • Why is this area important or interesting?
    • What is the research question?
    • Why is this question important or interesting?
    • What do we know about this area?
    • What do we know about this question?
    • What data and methods will you use to address your research question?
    your research proposal1
    Your research proposal

    Your committee will be thinking about the following:

    • Does the student have a solid understanding of the research area?
      • What has been done?
      • Why is it important?
      • What are the shortcomings of the existing work?
    • Does the student understand how his/her research question fits within that area?
    your research proposal2
    Your research proposal
    • Does the student understand why answering this question may be important?
    • Has the student identified and obtained sources of data?
    • Has the student developed an appropriate methodology for addressing the research question?
    get started
    Get started
    • Identify an area of interest
    • List topics in that area
    • Create a list of keywords (and their synonyms) that describe these concepts
    • Create a list of disciplines that are concerned with these concepts
    • Start searching and reading
    • List research questions and their answers
    get started1
    Get started
    • Good writing requires revision.
    • Revision is difficult when the writing is fresh.
    • Good writing takes time.
    • The first sentence is often the hardest to write
    • Getting something on paper (even if it’s a mess) is key. You can make it pretty later.
    • Start with an outline (use the thesis sections as a guide) and get your thoughts written down.
    get started2
    Get started
    • Search keywords with:
      • Causes of
      • Determinants of
      • Factors associated with
      • Implications of
      • Consequences of
      • An analysis of
      • Etc…
    • The abstract is your guide
    the literature dump
    The literature dump
    • Schuhmann’s method:
      • Create a file folder
      • Search
      • Read abstracts
      • Save relevant papers in your file using titles that reveal the topic (maybe paper title)
      • Keep a word document for papers that you need to find/access
      • Search forwards & backwards from key papers
    the annotated bibliography
    The annotated bibliography
    • An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the source.

    Source: Cornell University Library

    questions to guide your a b
    Questions to guide your A.B.

    You should attempt to answer the following for each paper you read (1-3 sentences for each):

    • Who? (full citation)
    • What? (what are the research questions?)
    • Why? (why is this important?)
    • How? (how was the research question addressed? i.e. what data and methods were used?)
    • What? (what were the main findings?)

    Salas, S., Sumaila, U.R., and Pitcher, T., 2004. “Short-term decisions of small-scale fishers selecting alternative target species: A choice model”, Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 61: 374–383.

    Mexico (Yucatan Coast)


    No valuation (Other fisheries applications)

    A random utility model of daily species target selection is estimated for three fishing communities of Yucatan, Mexico. The model is estimated using data on expected CPUE and revenues from spiny lobster and octopus, opportunity costs of fishing for alternative targets, the opportunity cost of fishing (i.e. forgone non-fishing earnings), travel costs and weather conditions. One-day lagged values of CPUE and revenues are used as estimates of expectations. Fisher responses to changes in species prices and CPUE are simulated. Target choice and target switching are found to be based on resource availability and revenues from prior trips. Decreases in species-specific revenues are found to induce switching to alternative targets. However, these effects are not linear. Price changes appear to have threshold effects on target decisions, depending on the relative costs and skills required for targeting different species. Increases in the availability of species are found to direct effort away from other species. Weather is found to influence target decisions based on associated changes in water clarity and turbidity that differentially affect species catch. Fisher behavior is heterogeneous across communities, indicating that results from modeling efforts such as this one may not apply directly to other areas. This work highlights the importance of understanding fisher behavior for policy development, recognizing that small-scale fishers make repeated daily decisions regarding whether or not to go fishing, what species to target or whether to engage in non-fishing employment or gear repair.

    Notably, an increase in the availability of octopus may affect the probability of targeting lobster for two reasons: increased probability of octopus catch and decreased likelihood of lobster catch due to predation by octopus.


    Reid-Grant, K. and Bhat, M.G., 2009. “Financing Marine Protected Areas in Jamaica: An Exploratory Study”, Marine Policy, 33: 128-136.


    WTP for Montego Bay Marine Park (MBMP)


    This paper provides a review of funding sources for marine protected areas as well as empirical analysis of potential funding sources for the Montego Bay Marine Park. WTP for park maintenance and conservation by stakeholders is analyzed based on a sample of five hoteliers, 21 tourism-based businesses and 99 tourists conducted during the summer of 2005.

    Using a Poisson specification, a travel cost model of tourist demand was estimated for cruise ship and air travel visitors using number of trips in the past 5 years as the dependent variable and demographics, recreation opportunities and quality ratings as independent variables. Consumer surplus for an average visitor is calculated by integrating under the estimated demand function. Notably, nearly half of tourists indicated that they would not be willing to donate to the park. CS (net gains above trip costs) per person is estimated to be US$586 or US$739 per person per trip. Aggregation produces estimates of the total annual consumer surplus of US$189 and US$993 million for cruise travelers and air travelers respectively. These consumer surplus values as well as tourist expenditures are compared to the annual park expenditures (estimated to be roughly US$117,500 in 2010) to make a case for tourist taxes as a source of park funding.

    Three out of five hoteliers stated willingness to donate to conservation efforts (though none were willing to donate funds directly to the MBMP) and three out of five were willing to provide a means of collecting donations from hotel guests. Only 38% of tourism-based business owners indicated willingness to donate to conservation of the MBMP despite the fact that a majority indicated that the park was important to their business and recognized that anthropogenic activities had an adverse effect on the quality of the park.


    Edwards, P., 2008. “Sustainable Financing for Ocean and Coastal Management in Jamaica: The Potential for Revenues from Tourist User Fees”, Marine Policy, 33: 376-385.


    CVM/Contingent Behavior

    Willingness to pay an environmental tax to fund ocean and coastal management activities

    This paper examines tourists’ willingness to pay for preservation of coastal systems under alternative institutional frameworks. Results are used to predict how decreased coral reef quality might affect visitation decisions and the coastal tourism industry. Based on a CVM survey administered to a sample of 481 tourists in 2007, mean WTP is US$130.07 for a general tourism is tax and $165.15 for an environmental tax, which translate to US$16.16 and $20.52 per person per day. Using estimates of the impact of these taxes on visitation, the authors suggest that an environmental tax of $1 per person would cause a 0.1% decline in the visitation rate and would generate revenues of $1.7 million, which is roughly 88% of the ‘‘best case’’ cost estimate for natural resource protection provided by coastal zone managers. A $2 per person tax would decrease visitation by 0.2% and generate revenues of $3.4 million. The authors note that attempts to capture the entire consumer surplus from visitors would cause visitation to decline by 52.4%.

    reviewing the literature
    Reviewing the literature
    • Iterations are normal and to be expected.
    • Each good paper you read will likely lead to more sources.
      • Search forward and search backward
    • Your review of the literature will most likely continue throughout the thesis process
    reviewing the literature1
    Reviewing the literature
    • How do I know when to stop reading?
      • Never stop reading.
    • However, you can start writing when you are ready to summarize the literature on your topic in a 15-20 minute presentation.
      • Topic area
      • Development of the research in chronological order
      • Implications
      • Gaps and unknowns
    reviewing the literature2
    Reviewing the literature
    • What is the topic area?
    • What are the key papers in the topic area?
    • Can you present these topics in an order that leads to your research question?
    • Can you present these papers in chronological order?
    • What are the implications of the existing research?
    • What are the gaps and unknowns?
    some past thesis titles
    Some past thesis titles
    • Empirical Study of Proxies Used to Measure Growth in the Gordon Model
    • Firm valuation and option volume
    • Determinants of cross-country acquisitions
    • International Financial Structure and Shareholder Returns
    • The Initial Pricing of Bonds and Influential Factors
    • Asset Allocation in Sovereign Wealth Funds: Government Pension Fund – Global
    • International factors influencing the real estate market in Poland
    • The Impact of Culture on Volatility and Performance of Global Equity Indices
    • Stock Price Reaction to Merger and Acquisition Announcements in Canada

    Covered Calls. Dividend Capture and Sin Stocks: A Portfolio Strategy Related to Morality

    • Post Merger Integration: A Practical Approach of the Asymmetric Response Model of Demand
    • A Comparative Analysis of Market Efficiency: The Case of Russia and the U.S.
    • Profit-maximizing utilization of greenhouse gas permits with a non-malleable substitute control technology
    • Biotechnology Valuation: An Examination of the Drug Development Pipeline and Board of Director Composition
    • The Short-Term Impact of Monetary Policy on Economic Growth and Inflation
    • The Effect of Macroeconomic Factors on Capital Structure Decisions
    • Copper prices and Chilean exchange rates
    • Financial Impacts of Catastrophic Events
    • The relation between currency value and stock returns: Evidence from Germany