Inequality and poverty

2. Writing the essay
Useful References on Writing Economics Essays
1. Writing Economics. Robert Neugeboren with Mireille Jacobson. @2001 The President and Fellows of Harvard University (minor revisions in Jan. 2005) http://www.economics.harvard.edu/files/WritingEconomics.pdf
2. A Guide to Writing in Economics Paul Dudenhefer, Duke University, December 2009
http://lupus.econ.duke.edu/ecoteach/undergrad/manual.pdf

Some students may be familiar with the ‘debate’ format in which authors argue one side of an issue and use data selectively to try to convince their audience of something they somehow ‘knew’ to be ‘true’, even before they started writing the essay. This is not that sort of essay – i.e. your essay should not be just an advocacy document. Instead, your essay should use evidence to provide as true an answer as is possible to an interesting and important question. To do that in a reasonable way, you have to know what evidence is relevant to the issue, find it and evaluate its credibility and then assess its implications and the quality of alternative arguments. Key to this process is being clear in your own mind, from the first, as to what question you wish to answer. Write out the central organizing question which you are trying to answer. Revise it when necessary but always keep a clear focus on the main question. You will find that referring back to the central question that you want to answer is an enormous help in deciding which issues, facts and interesting items are in fact relevant.

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Your essay should have:
(a) A short introduction which says explicitly:
– What question does this essay try to answer?
– Why is this question interesting and important?
– How will the essay try to answer it?
(b) Main body of argument which:
– develops clear, logical arguments to answer the question identified in (a)
– uses evidence to support assertions made
(c) Conclusion:
– summarizes points made
– States clearly: What is the answer to the question posed?
– suggests significance and implications of results

The main body of your paper should have a clear logical structure and provide careful evidence for any claims made. All sources should be cited and properly footnoted. This means that each specific assertion should be documented by reference to both the page number within each source and the publication details of the source. (It is, for example, no help at all to the reader to be told the data source of some number is “Statistics Canada”. BE SPECIFIC AND BE PRECISE).

Please remember that economics is a quantitative discipline, and that numbers can be a wonderful discipline for the mind. Support your arguments with appropriate statistics wherever possible. Avoid vague terms like “many”, “most” or “some” whenever a numerical estimate is possible. Define important terms explicitly and be exact wherever you possibly can be. Use data from reputable statistical sources and footnote those sources exactly. Special Note:
Due to its vulnerability to partisan editing, Wikipedia is NOT acceptable as a data source.

All papers should follow a consistent style for footnotes and bibliography. Refer to a guide such as Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Because the purpose of footnotes is to guide the reader to the original source, it is not good enough to provide a vague reference like Smith (2001). If you are quoting a source you must provide the exact page number – e.g. Smith (2001; page 99).

Your essay must be typewritten – and since all word processing packages now include a SPELL CHECK option, you should use it.Evaluation of your essay will consider:
1. Presentation/style (e.g. spelling, grammar, proper use of footnotes and bibliography, figures and tables with clearly labelled titles and references)
2 Originality and economic content – in both theory and empirical data.
3. Use of reference material (i.e., non-textbook, non-lecture material such as books, papers, statistical evidence)
4. Logical development of ideas (Think carefully about how you organize the ideas you assemble.)

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