Good Research Questions. A paradigm consists of – a set of fundamental theoretical assumptions that the members of the scientific community accept as.
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A paradigm consists of – a set of fundamental theoretical assumptions that the members of the scientific community accept as given; – a set of particular scientific problems that have been solved by means of those theoretical assumptions; – set agreement on how future scientific research in the field should proceeds; – on which problems are the most pertinent or most important to try to solve; – what the appropriate methods for solving them are; – what an acceptable solution should look like. In short, a paradigm is an entire scientific outlook – shared assumptions, beliefs and values – that unite the community of scholars within a discipline.
What is the paradigm of Economics? Financial Times: Forging a new economic paradigm – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d5108f90-abc2-11df- 9f02-00144feabdc0.html http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d5108f90-abc2-11df- 9f02-00144feabdc0.html – Efficient market hypothesis Competition implies self-correcting Price contain all relevant information – Representative agent models Did this really assume all people are the same? – Inefficiencies due mostly to informational asymmetries.
The Paradigm of Economics (continued) – Purpose is prediction as well as explanation. – (Good) Government intervention can stabilize economic fluctuations. (not universal – neoclassical view, Friedman)
The Paradigm of Economics (continued) – Analytical and quantitative Founded on basic ideas of optimization and self- interest. Seek quantitative corroboration of the basic ideas. – Is there a role for a qualitative paradigm? http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/20718/1/sp01 bi01.pdf http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/20718/1/sp01 bi01.pdf description and interpretation of new or not well researched issues; theory generation, theory development, theory qualification, and theory correction; evaluation, policy advice, and action research; research directed at future issues
General characteristics of “good” research questions – It fits the discipline’s paradigm – Interesting – you and others want to know the answer – It affects many people – It is unanswered – It has an interesting application – It seems simple, but it’s not – It seems complicated, but it’s not – You have a different means to investigate or different result
More specific characteristics of a “good” question for economics – The question shouldn’t be too vague. – The question shouldn’t be too specific. The results need to have some general application. – There is depth to the question. It may be good to extend beyond a yes/no question. – The question must be answerable, the answer must be measurable. – The answer must be interesting. Just because a question exists doesn’t make it good. – The question should use economic analysis.
Example, ““To what extent does parental employment adversely affect children’s cognitive development?” because it is: – Problem-oriented: The problem clearly focuses on how the employment of both parents affects a child’s cognitive development. The issue is very clear. – Analytical: There is a structured and directed way to address the problem. – Interesting and Significant: Knowing more about the answer should have important policy implications. – Amenable to Economic Analysis: Clear application to economic questions regarding labor economics and human capital, among others.
The research question is the central theme of the paper so every section of the paper focuses around the research question. – Introduction – Motivate the question – Related literature – your question remains unanswered and is important – Theory – the question addresses what portion of theory? – Model – the model can be used to address the question. – Data – the data is the right data to answer the question – Analysis – the analysis will answer the question – Results – how do the results answer the question? – Implications – the result provide what insight into the question? – Conclusions – What to do the results mean? The research question will likely change as you work with the theory, and data. If it doesn’t, you might be missing something.
Practical advice – Don’t look for “hot” topics. What is hot changes quickly. You may be out of fashion by the time you are finished. – Do pay attention to what is of interest generally. If there is no on-going work in a general area, it is likely out of fashion, solved or uninteresting. – Find something that genuinely interests you. – Three important characteristics It is interesting It adds important information to our knowledge It is well communicated
What is interesting? – Very subjective – Not determined by you, unfortunately – Good indicators There are real-world examples (cherries paper) Other, respected economists are considering the question (fisheries thesis) – NOT reason enough – You need an independent reason besides X or Y are working in this question You have something new and important to say on the subject.
How to find something new? – Read, then read some more, but not an entire history of a topic – Do read recent publications and working papers Free ride on someone else Don’t depend on others – Peruse journals, EconLit and the Social Science Citations Index. Study REPEC. How to know it is important? – Identify something novel about your approach, data or findings. – Loosen assumptions – New outcome, unintended consequence – New data, or new technique for analyzing the data.
Practical tools – To write theory, read empirical analysis. Helps you to find puzzles that need explaining. Puts your theory into a real world context. Helps you find examples that makes the theory important. (EG, My Public Choice paper) – To write empirical papers, read theory. Provides intellectual conceptualization. Explains how what you find fits into our economic paradigm (remember what a scientific paradigm is) Explains how what you find is novel and different, and potentially important.
Practical tools (continued) – Go to seminars. – Follow the working paper series of top departments. – Go to conferences, or read conference reports, or at least lists of papers from conferences. Write authors of papers with interesting titles and ask for their papers. – Peruse journals in a wide variety of fields. – Talk to your professors and colleagues. – Get done with courses early, but never stop studying and never stop reading.