Lutz Hendricks - UNC - Department of Economics

Econ691H - Fall 2017 - 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 Tue, Thr 9:30–10:45 in Gardner 309.

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. Student presentations of their research projects. Seminar format.

A more detailed schedule is available.

I set up a slack to facilitate communication. There, everyone can ask questions, answer questions, or comment on everyone’s work.

I recommend bringing a laptop to class.

Grading

Grades are based on:

  1. Class participation (20%)
  2. Preliminary proposal draft (25%)
    1. due Oct–24
    2. 20 minute presentation with class discussion
  3. Final proposal draft (40%)
    1. due Nov–14
    2. 30 minute presentation with class discussion
  4. Detailed discussion of another student’s final proposal, due Nov–28 (15%)

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

Preliminary Proposal Draft

By the middle of the fall term, you should have identified a 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 our advisor and by another student.

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

Length: 15–20 pages.

Discussion of another student’s thesis

Each student submits a critical discussion of another student’s final proposal. This will be similar to a referee report for a journal article.

The discussion should cover:

  1. Very brief summary of what the thesis does.
  2. Is the question clear and well motivated? How could it be sharpened?
  3. Is the contribution relative to the literature clear and significant? How could it be sharpened?
  4. Are the methods appropriate? How could they be improved?
  5. Are the results compelling? What could go wrong? How could one address potential objections?

A good discussion is constructive. It points out weaknesses, but also proposes improvements.

There is no prescribed length. However, I expect that the discussant has thought carefully about the thesis.

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.

You should provide your computer code with the thesis.

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