Lutz Hendricks - UNC - Department of Economics

Econ691H - Fall 2018 - Syllabus

Objective

Students conduct original research under the supervision of faculty members. The end product is an honors thesis.

Students are required to enroll in 691H in the fall and in 692H in the spring. Registration for 692H is automatic for all students enrolled in 691H.

Organization

Class meets Mon, Wed 3:35 - 4:50, GA 307 (but we won’t meet often)

Broad outline:

  1. Guidance on how to do research.
  2. Students identify broad research areas and pair up with advisors.
  3. Advisors help with formulation of precise topics.
  4. Students submit drafts at various points in the semester.

A more detailed schedule is available.

I recommend bringing a laptop to class.

Communication

I will ask for regular updates on your progress by email.

Especially at the start of the fall semester, as you look for a topic and advisor, we will have regular face-to-face meetings.

It is important to keep track of what has been communicated. After all, the thesis writing process takes several months. I will create a set of slack channels for each student. By default, only the student, his/her advisor, and I will have access to each channel. Slack is basically an alternative to email. It works rather like text messaging, but is more organized.

I have sent out slack invites to each of you. Please accept them.

Grading

Grades are based on:

  1. Progress report on topic search and formulation (10%)
    1. due Oct–1
  2. Preliminary proposal draft (30%)
    1. due Oct–29
  3. Final proposal draft (45%)
    1. due Nov–26
  4. Communication with me during the semester (one-on-one meetings and electronic discussions) (15%)

Late submissions receive half credit. Submissions handed in after finals week receive no credit.

Please submit PDF files only.

Progress report

After the first month, you should have identified a draft topic and done background research on it.

Your report should cover:

  1. Rough description of the question or area of your thesis.
  2. Sketch of a literature review that identifies where you plan to contribute.

The main purpose is to ensure that you are making progress towards finding a topic and understanding how it fits into the literature.

Preliminary Proposal Draft

By the middle of the fall term, you should have identified a specific topic and done background research on it.

Length: about 5 pages.

Your proposal should cover:

  1. Motivation: what is the question and why is it important?
  2. Approach: Roughly how do you plan to answer the question?
  3. Contribution: how does it fit into the literature? What is new?
  4. For empirical projects:
    1. Data sources: description and summary statistics for the variables that you plan to use.
    2. Outline the econometric procedures that you plan to use.
  5. For theoretical projects:
    1. Sketch the model.
  6. Detailed bibliography

Final Proposal Draft

By the end of the semester, you should have produced a detailed outline of your research plans and methods.

The final proposal is structured like the preliminary one, but more detailed and polished. Detailed feedback will be provided by your advisor and by me.

By the last day of classes, you should submit a revised draft that addresses these comments.

Length: 15–20 pages. PDF files only.

Expectations for a Thesis

A thesis presents original research. It will typically cover:

  1. Introduction
    1. What is the question? Why is it interesting?
    2. How is the question approached? Why is this reasonable?
    3. What are the main findings?
    4. What is the contribution to the literature?
  2. Literature review
    1. More details here
  3. Outline of empirical methods
    1. What are the challenges to be solved? (E.g., identify cause effect)
    2. What econometric methods are used and why?
    3. What could go wrong? Limitations.
    4. Description of empirical model.
  4. Data description
    1. Summary of dataset: coverage, sample design, key variables.
    2. Construction of key variables used in empirical model.
    3. Limitations of the data.
    4. Tables with summary statistics.
  5. Results
    1. Discussion of what you find when you estimate your model.
    2. How to interpret the econometric results?
    3. Robustness.
  6. Conclusion
    1. A redundant section that rehashes what was written above.

There is no prescribed length. This is entirely dictated by what you need to say. PDF files only.

You should provide your computer code with the thesis.

You can find summaries of previous theses here. Examples of successfully completed theses are here.