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Academic Research Development as a Junior Scholar. Dr. Jing Ai Shidler College of Business The University of Hawaii at Manoa Workshop at China Center for Insurance and Risk Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China July 24, 2011. Agenda. Getting started Research process

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Academic research development as a junior scholar

Academic Research Development as a Junior Scholar

Dr. Jing Ai

Shidler College of Business

The University of Hawaii at Manoa

Workshop at China Center for Insurance and Risk Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

July 24, 2011


  • Getting started

  • Research process

  • Writing process

  • Review process

  • Seminar presentations

  • My research (optional)

  • Q & A


Where to start
Where to Start?

  • The starting point – getting research ideas

    • Mentored

      • (PhD) classes

        • e.g., term papers

      • Advisor

      • Other senior/more experienced co-authors

    • Non-mentored

      • Self-established streams of research

        • E.g., further development of dissertation research

Where to start1
Where to Start?

  • Non-mentored (Cont’d)

    • New co-authors

      • Similar interests, complementary skill sets

    • Other sources

      • Academic literature

      • Academic conferences

      • Major trade publications, e.g., Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Business Week

      • Specialized industry publications

      • Chats with companies/professionals

Research process
Research Process

  • Topics/Ideas

    • What is a good research idea?

      • Major contribution

      • Implementable/doable

      • Popular/”hot” topic?

      • Public policy/applied research?

    • One central and novel contribution

      • The idea should be concrete

      • Write it out for self-check

      • Distill it bravely

Research process1
Research Process

  • Literature review

    • Up to date with the “zone” of literature

    • “Study” the most relevant papers (classics and most recent ones)

    • Evaluate your idea within the literature

      • Does it add to the current literature?

        • Is it significantly interesting?

        • Is it new?

    • Different ways to build on the literature

Research process2
Research Process

  • Empirical analysis

    • Choose a methodology/approach that fits; simple is better

    • Follow the good, relevant papers

    • Be extremely careful

      • E.g., Identification problem/causal effect

        • Understand the left hand variable and right hand variables

        • Carefully choose control variables

        • Carefully construct instruments

    • Databases vs. hand-collected data

    • Summary statistics

Research process3
Research Process

  • Empirical analysis (cont’d)

    • Make sense of the results

      • Be sure to explain your results, not just present estimates and p values

      • Your “story” should be consistent with the results

    • Pay attention to economic significance, not just statistical significance

    • How many robustness checks?

  • Theoretical/analytical analysis

Writing process
Writing Process

  • General writing tips

    • “We are primarily writers.” Most good economists put at least 50% of the time into writing (Cochrane 2005).

    • Keep it short

      • Simple is better

      • Minimize repetition

    • Be concrete and direct

      • Write about what you find/do, not the search process

      • Get to the point as fast as possible

    • Strive for precision

Writing process1
Writing Process

  • General writing tips (cont’d)

    • Keep track of what readers know and don’t know

    • Take responsibility of what you write

    • Use an English editor

      • Note that she is not a substitute for you

  • Other writing tips

    • Use active tense whenever possible

    • Present tense is better and be consistent

    • Limit the use of adjectives

    • “this,” “that,” and other tricks

Writing process2
Writing Process

  • Abstract

    • 100-200 words

    • Highlight the one central and novel contribution

    • Briefly summarize what you do/find

    • No “side” points

      • No other literature

      • No long motivations

      • No painful details

Writing process3
Writing Process

  • Introduction

    • Limit to three pages

    • Start with and emphasize what you do, i.e., the major contribution

      • Explain/describe your contribution so people can understand

    • Summarize your results

    • Discuss later long motivations, other literature, policy implications

      • Easier to understand when readers know what you do

Writing process4
Writing Process

  • Literature review

    • Focus on a few most relevant papers

      • Put your paper into context

      • Give credit to people

    • It is not a survey of literature

      • It is definitely not a dump of all relevant papers

    • Be generous in citations

    • Strategic citations

    • Consider a separate “block” for literature review

Writing process5
Writing Process

  • Analyses and results

    • Get to the main results fast

    • Describe data efficiently

    • Work out theoretical models only when necessary

    • Document the work

    • Tables and Figures

      • Use self-contained captions for tables

      • Explain the tabulated findings in the text

      • Prioritize main results over supplementary results and robustness checks

Writing process6
Writing Process

  • Conclusion

    • Try not to restate all findings

    • It is OK to acknowledge limitations

    • May include further implications, e.g., for public policymaking

    • May include brief description of future research avenues

Writing process7
Writing Process

  • Footnotes

    • Designed for the more thorough readers

    • Not for parenthetical comments

  • Appendices

    • For the “extras”

      • Detailed data construction

      • Lengthy proofs

      • Robustness checks

      • Survey/interview questions

Review process
Review Process

  • Pre-submission checks

    • Basics: spelling, grammar, format, journal requirements, page numbers, references, etc.

    • Informal reviews/comments

  • The ultimate decisions

    • The best time to submit a paper?

    • Which journal to submit to?

      • Special issues?

  • Getting the review reports

    • Be patient

    • Take a deep breath

Review process1
Review Process

  • Getting the review reports (cont’d)

    • Reviewers are always right?

    • The importance of response letters

      • A lot of reviewers read response letters first

      • Address the comments point by point

      • It is easier to just do what the reviewers asked for

      • Acknowledge the reviewers’(comments) sufficiently

      • Timely resubmission

      • “Pre-emptive” strikes?

    • Be sure to revise as you say in the response letters

  • The spirit of “RE-search”

Seminar presentations
Seminar Presentations

  • Understand your paper before presenting it

  • Get to the point as fast as possible

  • Slides

    • Try to limit the number to the bare minimum

    • Put on slides two types of things

      • Most important points

      • Those that have to be seen (tables, equations, symbols)

    • Organize them for you to follow easily

    • Prepare hidden slides just in case

Seminar presentations1
Seminar Presentations

  • Presentation

    • Motivate only when necessary

    • First things first, i.e., get to the main contribution as early as possible

      • Help audience understand the part to follow

      • Control/limit unnecessary questions

    • Do not try to cover everything

    • Listen to the questions to the end

      • Wait before respond

      • Give thoughtful and honest answers

    • Speak loudly, slowly, and clearly

    • Rehearse if necessary


  • “Writing Tips for Ph.D. Students,” John H. Cochrane, 2005. Available online (as of July 23, 2011).

  • “How to Write a Paper,” presentation slides, Professor Gene Lai, 2010.



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