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ECO 495: Senior Thesis in Economics

Economics 495

  • Prerequisite: ECO 494
  • Completion of ECO 494 is required for enrollment in ECO 495 (Senior Thesis in Economics). No Exceptions.
  • The goal of the senior thesis is to produce original research on an economic topic. The thesis requires not only that students review and synthesize related literature from the economics journals but also gather and analyze new data in support of a particular hypothesis.
  • Such analysis typically requires extensive use of statistical and econometric techniques. Many of the best senior theses at TCNJ have, after some additional work, appeared in the peer-reviewed economics journals.
  • Thus, the senior thesis in economics differs from a typical term paper because it seeks to make a real contribution by generating new evidence and/or analysis on a particular economic topic.

Course Description

The goal of the senior thesis is to produce original research on an economic topic. The thesis requires not only that students review and synthesize related literature from the economics journals but also gather and analyze new data in support of a particular hypothesis. Such analysis typically requires extensive use of statistical and econometric techniques. Many of the best senior theses at TCNJ have, after some additional work, appeared in the peer-reviewed economics journals. Thus, the senior thesis in economics differs from a typical term paper because it seeks to make a real contribution by generating new evidence and/or analysis on a particular economic topic.

 

The Thesis

Typically, senior theses are about 20-30 double-spaced pages in length. This includes your introduction and literature review sections completed in ECO 494. However, the page count, as such, is beside the point. The point is to make a real contribution by generating new evidence and/or analysis on a particular economic topic.

Now that you have finished your prospectus, you should settle on basic research design and finish your data collection. This is the tricky part. Data on variables you would like to measure does not always exist. Sometimes existing data must be sorted or transformed. Alternatively, you may stumble across data that suggests a new approach. In such cases, you may need to modify your research design and/or your research question. This is why you should never leave data collection to the last minute. As you collect your data, be sure to note the definitions of each variable and where you found the data.

Information on where you found the data and the definitions of the variables should be included in a section titled “Data and Methods”. In this section, you should also include a discussion of why you have included each of the variables in your analysis. After you have completed your statistical analyses, arrange the results in easy-to-read tables. Do not simply attach a computer printout to the end of the paper. Rearrange the results in a more readable form.

Use the tables to write an easy-to-understand explanation of your results and how they relate to previously published results. This section is typically titled “Results” or “Analysis of Empirical Findings”. The next section, typically labeled “Conclusion” reiterates the main statistical results, connects the results to existing knowledge on the topic, and makes arguments for the broader significance of your results.

The “References” section should report all sources cited in the paper. This bibliographical information is crucial because readers may desire background information on how your model was formulated and the source of your data. Sources should be listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Charts and tables should be numbered consecutively and attached to the end of the paper. Each chart and table should have a title (e.g. Table 2 – Regression Results). Finally, the thesis should include a cover page with the title, your name, the semester the thesis was completed, and the name of your research advisor. Thus, your completed thesis should typically be divided into seven sections: 1. Introduction; 2. Literature Review; 3. Data and Methods; 4. Results; 5. Conclusion; 6. References; 7. Tables

A completed draft of the entire thesis is due March 25. This will allow enough time for your faculty advisor to provide comments and return the paper to you for subsequent revisions. A final version with revisions is due by about the second week of April. This should allow plenty of time for you to produce a presentation of your work for the Celebration of Student Achievement (typically the last week in April).

 

Timeline:

DateTask
February 20Complete data collection.
March 25Submit “Data and Methods,” “Results” and “Conclusion” to your thesis advisor.
April 1Return revised “Data and Methods,” “Results” and “Conclusion” to your thesis advisor.

 

Assessment

The evaluation of your thesis will be based on four elements:

  1. Analytical Depth – Does the literature review provide a fair picture of the state of knowledge on your topic and closely related topics? Does your research hypothesis and design offer a contribution to the literature either by confirming or challenging others’ results, or by exploring new terrain?
  2. For econometric theses: does your framing of the research question adequately control for other factors in isolating the question to explore? Do your dependent and independent variables best measure the underlying economic concepts you are studying? Does the analysis use appropriate econometric techniques and equation format? Does the analysis check for econometric problems in the data (e.g., autocorrelation) and attempt to repair any problems? Does the paper anticipate alternative interpretations of the data analysis and attempt to rule out these alternative interpretations?
  3. Organization and Style – Is the paper clearly organized in sections with headings? Is there a logical flow between the sections? Does the paper identify the nature of the original contribution for the reader? Is the paper free of grammatical errors? Where appropriate, does it connect the empirical results with current policy debates?
  4. Presentation – Did the presentation effectively communicate the main results of the research? Did the presentation clearly explain how the results of this study compare to other studies on the topic (or closely related topics)?

A student who fails to complete the thesis in time for submission to the Ursinus Conference (typically around April 1st) will be penalized one grade letter. For students completing the thesis in the fall, failure to complete the thesis by December 1st will result in the penalty of one grade letter.

In addition, 15% of your ECO 495 grade will be determined by your performance on the ETS Major Field Test in Economics. The test covers macro and micro at the principles and intermediate levels, and statistics. See the link provided below. We administer the test to get an honest third party assessment of our strengths and weaknesses as well as yours. These test results allow for clear comparisons across TCNJ graduating classes and for comparisons with other schools. We then review the curriculum and try to address any weaknesses the test identifies.

Information on test topics is available here:
http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/MFT/pdf/2008/MFT_Economics_TestDescription_08.pdf

A set of sample questions is available here:
http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/MFT/pdf/2008/MFT_Economics_Sample_Items_08.pdf

 

Presenting Your Results

You have only about 20 minutes to explain an entire semester’s worth of work so it is important that you use your time effectively. To use your time effectively, prepare an overhead transparency (or a Power Point slide) with an outline of your paper. The outline should follow the major sections of your paper. Prepare overhead transparencies for all tables of statistical results. Use about half of the time (10 minutes) motivating the paper and providing background. Remember, your audience, although well versed in economics, will not know your topic as well as you. It is important that you convey this background in order that your audience can see the larger significance of your results. Tips on preparing your paper and presentation (e.g., style sheets, avoiding plagiarism) are available at:

  • Emory University – Citation Styles and Avoiding Plagiarism
  • About.com – Graduate School: Presentations and Public Speaking

Learning Outcomes

By the completion of ECO 495, the student will be able to:

  • Conduct original research on an economic issue of significance.

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