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Writing tips Based on Michael Kremer’s “Checklist”,

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Presentation on theme: "Writing tips Based on Michael Kremer’s “Checklist”,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing tips Based on Michael Kremer’s “Checklist”,
Caroline Hoxby’s “Structuring Your Term Paper” and John H. Cochrane’s “Writing Tips for Ph.D. Students”

2 Organization Formulate the one central question that your paper is addressing Write this central question down in one paragraph in your introduction. Organize and focus your whole paper around this central question. It may not be easy, because you will realize how much you will to have to throw out. Main point, main finding or result come right upfront. Not like a joke building up to the punch line, rather like a newspaper starting with the headline.

3 Organization (continued)
Paper length is double-spaced pages (including everything) The different parts of the paper typically include (for an empirical paper without a theoretical model): Abstract Introduction Short literature review Empirical strategy Data description (data set, summary statistics) Evidence Conclusion References

4 Abstract Always include an abstract.
The abstract should be no longer than words. The main function is to communicate the one central question and contribution. You should not mention other literature in the abstract. Abstract should be concrete: say what you find, not what you look for. .

5 Introduction Purpose: state the question to be answered and the results you find. Explain the contribution so that readers without much background information can understand it. Then explain why the question is interesting. Briefly explain how you are planning to answer the question and mention your data. Optimal length about 2 pages.

6 Literature Review After you’ve explained your contribution, you can write a brief literature review. Cite literature that explains why your question is relevant and to what extent it is unanswered, why the method you are applying is justified. Don’t give long general literature review on the topic of your paper. Write around 2 sentences per cited paper. Don’t try to summarize other papers exhaustively. Don’t write negatively about other papers. Introduction and literature review should take no more than 5 double-spaced pages.

7 Body of the Paper Your task is to get to the central results as fast as possible. Many papers do exactly the opposite. Nothing should come before the main result that a reader does not need to know to understand the main result. .

8 Empirical Strategy The goal of this section is to convert your question into a testable prediction. Start by restating your question, as clearly and starkly as possible. State what evidence would support and what evidence would contradict your hypothesis. Describe the approach you are going to take and the regression equations you plan to use. If you write any equations, explain what the variable names mean. Consider carefully what controls should or should not be in the regression. Explain your empirical procedure in enough detail that someone could replicate your work.

9 Empirical Strategy (continued)
Describe your empirical identification strategy clearly: If your empirical question boils down to a claim that A causes B, explain how the causal effect is identified. Try to include an explanation that would be intelligible to a non-economist. Describe the source of variation for each specification of the regressions you run. This might for example change between a specification with and without fixed effects. If you use instrumental variables, explain why you think they might be valid. Think of reverse causality or confounding factor stories. It’s okay if they exist, but definitely point them out. Explain the economic significance of your results. Optimal length: about 3 pages.

10 Data The goal of this section is to describe the data that you use.
You may start by stating what the ideal data for answering this question would look like. Then tell the reader what you can actually use. A number of practical issues should be covered: Source Years Reliability Number of observations Missing observations How you constructed variables Whether you dropped any data and if so what rules you used in deciding what data to drop Any imputations or assumptions you make

11 Data (continued) Include a table of descriptive statistics of your variables. Descriptive statistics are usually Mean Standard deviation Minimum and maximum of each variable If you use Stata, the command “summarize” creates such a table. You may also create a graph of the most important variables or correlations. Optimal length of the data section: about 3 pages, depending on how complicated your data is.

12 Evidence The goal of this section is to describe your findings.
It is not enough to just show the results. You should point out and discuss what is interesting in your findings. In your interpretation, link the evidence to the testable predictions you discussed earlier. You can make a limited number of tables and figures. Optimal length: about 3 pages of text, not including tables or figures.

13 Tables It is usually better to show standard errors, rather than t-statistics. Look at a journal to see how tables are laid out. Avoid horizontal lines in tables. Include basic information like sample size and R-squared in all tables. Each table should have self-contained caption So that the reader can understand the fact presented without having to go searching through the text. Explain all variable abbreviations in the table. Avoid them as much as possible. Use only one (or two) digits of rounding, not Use sensible units. Percentages are good. If you can report 2.3 instead of , that is easier to understand. You can use the “outreg” command in Stata as a starting point to create tables.

14 Conclusion Think about a reader who is going to skip right from the first paragraph to your last section. Include the things that the reader should know about what you want to test what you did how it turned out To what issues are your conclusions related? What else would you have liked to be able to test? Optimal length: 1 page

15 Footnotes and References
Don’t use footnotes for parenthetical comments If it’s important, put it in the text; if not, delete it. Use footnote only for things that the typical reader can skip, but a few readers might want to know e.g. longer lists of references, simple bits of algebra, or other documentation. The references in the end of your paper include all papers you cited and no other papers. Optimal length of the references: 1 page

16 Writing Style Don’t assume too much previous knowledge on the part of the reader Keep it short. You will find that the challenge will not be to fill the pages, but not to go past that limit. Don’t repeat things too much Keep track of what the reader knows Use active tense e.g. “I assume α = 3”, instead of “it is assumed..” or “we assume” Avoid technical jargon

17 Writing Style (continued)
Crimson, October 2006: Psychology study found that “Contrary to the prevailing wisdom among undergraduates, readers are more likely to think that clear, concise writers are more intelligent.”

18 End


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