Writing a paper

The paper for ECON394 is a different task than writing the journal. The journal is intended to document what you did as an intern; the paper should not be a report on your internship. Rather, it should be a research paper, ideally linked to a topic you encountered in your internship. The paper ought to have the same character as something you would write for a 300 level economics elective. In such courses you usually have a couple of tests and a paper and the paper is on a topic related to the course. For ECON394 there are no tests so the paper carries a bit more weight but its scope is the same: it should be analytical and focus on topics covered in economics.

By analytical, I do not narrowly mean the use of econometrics. You do not need to develop an econometric model (or modify an existing one), run some kind of simulation, and then evaluate the results. If you are capable of and interested in doing such work, this is certainly acceptable. But you do not need to do econometric work to be analytical. You can be analytical by demonstrating an ability to think critically about the theories and concepts involved in your issue. Doing so involves more rigor that just collecting and organizing economic facts.

To do a research paper requires that you read contemporary articles on the topic in question so that you can explain where the analysis of the topic currently stands. Look at the format of a journal article to get an idea of the format you should have in your paper.

Here are some examples of titles of past papers (and the name of the organization the student interned with):

  • “Stickiness in Credit Card Pricing” (Capital One)
  • “Determinants of Supermarket Pricing Strategies” (Wegmans Food Markets)
  • “Economics of Wetlands Protection” (City of Poquoson)
  • “How TARGET aids in the conversion to the Euro and new monetary policy” (Federal Reserve Board of Governors)
  • “Current issues in corporate finance” (GE Finance)
  • “Why M2 became an unreliable indicator of economic activity” (Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond)
  • “Market structure issues in the phone card industry” (telecom consulting firm)
  • “Critically evaluating the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Freedom” (Heritage Foundation)

Like any other paper, this paper should be typed, double-spaced, and well written! Length is not an important issue, quality is; the papers mentioned above varied from 10 to 40 pages. Typically students write papers using the style recommended by their discipline, which is usually the lead journal in that particular field. So for any writing style questions, you can use the format in a recent article from the American Economic Review or Journal of Economic Perspectives. This is really not a big deal, you could use a different style if you prefer. However, this style is much easier to use because instead on having to have separate footnotes for each of the citation references you need to make, you just make these references within the text of your paper. The role for footnotes is to use them only when you want to clarify or elaborate on a particular point you are making in the text of the paper and doing so in text would seem to distract from the flow of the exposition; it is easier and acceptable, if you have such footnotes, to put them together at the end of the paper as “endnotes.”

The hardest part of any paper is getting started. To get this paper done ASAP, the trick is to pick a feasible topic that you are interested in and get started. I will be glad to help you by giving you feedback on a topic you want to propose for a paper. Email me your ideas for a paper and I will respond. Because interns usually are working fulltime during the summer, the typical scenario for ECON394 is for me to turn in a grade of incomplete at the end of the summer session. If you can get the paper done before the ECON394 summer session ends, this is certainly acceptable. However, since the paper is the primary academic product you will generate for the course, it generally requires more time than you can give to it during the actual internship and students typically finish up their paper during the fall semester.

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