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ECO 231W

Undergraduate Econometrics

The Final Project

The final project is a critique of this semester’s paper. The critique will be based in 1 point. It means that, although you may know several things that are wrong with the paper, your project will discuss only one. Of course, choose the best one you can.

The project begins with an introduction, where you explain the paper in broad lines: the question, the methodology, the results, and the conclusion. Then you introduce the point which will be the basis of your critique. You have to explain what your point is, then you have to provide evidence for this point, and finally you have to describe the consequences for the results of overlooking your critique point. For example, if you are defending that there is an omitted variable, you must explain what is the consequence of this omission: is the bias positive or negative? What is the consequence of this for society? Finally, you must have a conclusion. Don’t forget the bibliography, if applicable. It must follow a standard academic style. Any style is fine, as long as it is the same for all entries. Turabian (also known as Chicago style) is a good choice, very well accepted in Social Sciences.

The critique point must be specific. Is it omitted variable bias? Then you must defend that 1 specific variable was omitted. Which is it? Is it measurement error? Then which variable has measurement error? Is it sample selection? Then are you concerned with selection in which specific way? You must provide evidence, and you can go as far as you want there. You can use pure logic, you can use newspaper sources. However, the royal evidence comes from actual research papers. If you want to really impress, you can bring outside datasets. There is no limit to the creativity you can put into the evidence for your point. Moreover, if you can solve the problem, then you should. It is not necessary to do this, and historically only 2 students per year manage to provide full solutions to the problems they suggest, but it certainly increases the level of impressiveness of your project to a whole new level.

The project has strict formatting rules. The paper cannot have more than 10 pages counting everything (except the cover page). It must be written in single-space, Times New Roman font size 12. The document must leave 1 inch of space in all margins, no more, no less. Pages must be numbered. Include a cover page with your name, student ID, and class time. Don’t try to fumble with the editing rules, because we have way too many examples to compare. You have a bit of freedom within reason in how you format and space the section titles, as well as figures and tables, if you have some. Here are some guidelines (not obligatory) to help you write the paper: a typical critique has a 2 page long introduction, then the critique itself is introduced in general lines in about half a page. The body of the critique is very free, and the conclusion is usually at most one page long.

The project is graded based on many things. First, the introduction where you summarize the paper. There we are looking for an excellent understanding of what truly matters in this year’s paper. The words about which you should think are conciseness, precision, and readability. To help you write this section, read question 2 in all midterms again. Many items there were designed to make you extract the essence of the paper arguments in a few lines.

The body of the paper is, of course, the most important part. We are looking for a good critique point, which is defended using excellent evidence. The critique must clearly delineate what are the consequences of the problem you are raising. We reward creativity very highly. You can defend the same critique point as many of your colleagues, but then you are in direct comparison with them. If you choose an unexplored critique point, you will be evaluated on your own, which is a good thing. Moreover, when we see a novel critique point, we imagine that you thought about, but rejected, several more common ideas. Hence, we will reward you directly. We also reward the quality of the evidence. Not all evidence has the same strength and reliability. It goes like this: straight from data>>research papers>>online verifiable journalistic sources>>logical argument. This is not written in stone, but it’s a decent guideline. We reward effort and creativity involved in choosing, searching, and using the evidence. We also reward the strength of your whole argument. Is it easy to understand? Are you convincing?

You can make up for things. For example, you may not be defending the most creative critique point, but you can make up for it with a brilliant evidence source, or even (wow!) a direct solution. Additionally, this is an essay, so your language counts a lot. We establish just a few points for style and grammar, but don’t underestimate the power of a well written piece. An argument that develops fluidly, a paper that is not boring, a paragraph that is so well structured that the mind just cruises through it, all of those end up reflecting in your final grade. We punish pretty severely when your arguments are not clear, when we have to re-read things many times to get the point.

This project is not about doing everything right. Your paper may defend a correct critique point, use good evidence, and be sufficiently clear, and it will still not garner the maximum grade. You can always choose to break free from mediocrity. You can choose to be ambitious, to risk, and we will reward that.

Final note: you can get help with grammar and style. Check out this link to the
College Writing Program. They can read your essay over, they can help edit it. You should take advantage of this resource, it will serve you well for when you are writing other essays in the future. Do you see how journalists write? This style is very persuasive. I’ve seen undergrad students that could write this smoothly, and we couldn’t help but give them a better grade. Never underestimate the importance of presentation, be it in person or in paper.

The project is due on 05/04. It must be handed in paper (print and staple it). We will announce the location.