Tips and Advice for Economists

I came across a wonderful guide here, which contains very well-written general tips and advice for people who work in the field of economics. I was looking for a sample MATLAB code for solving an Overlapping Generations Model (for studying). Then, the search ended up at Professor Groth’s website. Right in front of your eyes would be a section called “some general advice”. Clicking it could bring you to one of the most insightful collections of advice you may ever have encountered while studying Economics.

Unfortunately, the page has been removed/changed so when you accessed it directly, a “Not Found message” will appear. This kind of incident is not uncommon to Professor Groth’s resources.

Cited Tips

No worries, because we have the Wayback Machine. Besides Google, I think this is the most powerful tool on the internet. Here is a snapshot of the page before it was removed.

Since going back and forth to the archive takes a lot of effort, you can find the links included on the page here. Note that a lot of the original documents have also been dead.

Other cited papers:

How to publish in top journals

How to Publish in Top Journals (Kwan Choi)

How to Publish in a Top Journal (Hammermesh)

An Excerpt from Choi (by Akio Matsumoto)

Know your enemies

Writing Tips for Ph. D. Students (Cochrane)

Writing responses to referee reports

Other materials:

A comprehensive collection

Conducting and Publishing Applied Economics Research by Jay P. Shimshack.

The slide can be found here

The link for a list of references is here

It includes everything from a to z in doing Economics.

David Romer’s Rules for Making It Through Graduate School and Finishing Your Dissertation

The link is here (dead-but-waybacked).

  • Don’t clutter up your life with other activities; just write.
  • Don’t carry out a thorough and comprehensive search of the literature; just write.
  • Don’t attempt to make sure that every page you write shows the full extent of your professional skills; just write.
  • Don’t write a well-organized, well-integrated, unified dissertation; just write.
  • Don’t think profound thoughts that shake the intellectual foundations of the discipline; just write.
  • If you don’t have a paper started by the spring of your third year, be alarmed.
  • If you don’t have a paper largely drafted by the fall of your fourth year, panic.
  • Have three new ideas a week while you are getting started.
  • Don’t try to game the profession, work on what interests you.
  • Good papers in economics have three characteristics:
    • A viewpoint.
    • A lever.
    • A result.
Writing Papers: A Checklist (Michael Kremer)

The link is here (dead-but-waybacked).

On Empirical Work:

  1. Describe the data set. Where is it from? How many observations?
  2. Include a table showing the means of the variables, and the standard deviations.
  3. As a rule, it is usually better to show standard errors, rather than t-statistics.
  4. Look at a journal to see how tables are laid out. Avoid horizontal lines in tables.
  5. Include basic information like sample size and R* in all tables.
  6. To the extent possible, make tables self-contained with clearly-explained titles and extensive notes.
  7. Explain clearly where the identification comes from. As a disciplinary device, try to include an explanation that would be intelligible to a non-economist.
  8. Did you drop any data? What rules did you use in deciding what data to drop?
  9. In general, you should explain your empirical procedures in enough detail that someone could replicate your work.
  10. If you use instruments, explain why you think they might be valid.

On Modeling (theoretical work):

Think about the purpose of your model. If you are trying to prove the existence of an effect, it is generally good to start with the simplest, most stripped-down model that will deliver your result. Later, you can do extensions to examine how general the result is. There is no need to strive for realism in early drafts. On the other hand, if you are building a theoretical model for empirical implementation, it may be more important to have realistic assumptions, and not to abstract too much from other factors. Similarly, if you are trying to prove generality, you may want to make minimal assumptions about functional form. For an “existence of an effect” type of paper, it is useful to think about the following questions:

  1. Would it be easier to derive the results in continuous or discrete time?
  2. Can I demonstrate the effect in two or three time periods, or do I need to do an infinite-horizon model?
  3. Are the functional forms for the utility and production functions the ones that make the derivations as simple as possible?
  4. If the model involves agents of different types, how many different types are actually needed to generate the result? In general, it is a good idea to explicitly write out the utility function, the production function, and if applicable, the timeline of moves, the solution concept (competitive equilibrium, Markov Perfect Equilibrium, etc.), and the assumption about who has what information when.

On Exposition:

  1. The introduction and literature review should generally take no more than five double-spaced pages. After that, you should get into the model.
  2. Always include an abstract.
  3. In the abstract and introduction, don’t just say what issues you have examined, but describe your results.
  4. Papers should very rarely be more than forty-five pages long. Twenty to thirty is usually appropriate.
A typical “How a paper is reviewed”

The link is here.

Research Quality:

  • Does the paper pose a well-defined research problem?
  • Does the paper use a rigorous and well-defined methodology for answering that question?
  • Is the paper of sufficient originality, i.e. does it address a new question, does it use a new methodology or an original data set?
  • In the light of the above, is the paper published in a refereed journal? Policy relevance:
  • Is the topic of the paper relevant to the tasks and functions of the (journal)?
  • Is the paper informative in addressing a policy question?
  • Is the paper likely to make an impact of importance to the (journal), for example by pointing out some relevant facts, analysis, and activities? Drafting:
  • Is the paper, including its non-technical summary, clear and well-written?
  • Does it have a well-defined structure and notation?
Written on February 2, 2022