3 Introduction

3.1 Why is doing a research project valuable?

  • To express your own ideas

  • To demonstrate real understanding and not just test-taking skills

  • To show your ability to integrate material

  • To produce a writing sample

  • To gain useful skills and experience for career and for further study

A dissertation or final-year project allows you to explore your aptitude for, and interest in doing economic research.  You will be able to choose a topic (from a list, or you may be allowed to propose one subject to your department’s approval) and use your intellect, skills, creativity, and your economics training.  This is a great opportunity to develop a good “writing sample” to show prospective employers, academic programs, and academic referees.  It is also a good chance to interact directly with your supervisor, to learn from him or her, and to make an impression that will inspire your supervisor to write you a strong letter of reference.

Finally, consider why you are here. You were not born just to read what others have written and nod in appreciation. You are now being given a chance to express yourself. You are taking a first step towards making an impression on the world. Congratulations! Don’t waste this opportunity!

3.2 How to demonstrate your ability, knowledge, sophistication and insight in economics

3.3 How to make a modest original contribution

3.4 What you should aim for with an undergraduate dissertation; what you should aim for in an essay (coursework)

(See ingredients below.)

A dissertation (or “final project”; henceforth I will call it a dissertation) ideally will demonstrate both original thought and some original analysis.

We do not expect this to be at the level of a professional academic paper. Still, you should look at such academic papers as models of what you are striving for, and try to follow their style and format, presentation, etc.

An essay for a standard module is typically meant to be a less significant piece of work. It is largely meant to demonstrate that you understand the principles taught in the module, and that you can apply them to a new but relevant case, topic or situation. Term papers may also be used to show your understanding of a topic that goes slightly beyond what is covered in the module. You should, as much as possible, try to show your understanding “in your own words” and expressing your own insights and views, but still using clear professional language. A term paper may also involve original analysis, but this is not usually necessary. Sometimes, a term paper can be essentially an informed literature survey. (But remember never to plagiarize).

3.5 Following up after you have turned in your dissertation (or essay)

You have written your paper, and been given a mark. Now let’s throw it in the bin and forget about it? Absolutely not! You have on paper an expression of your own thoughts and ideas. One or more professional academics have read your work, and giving you feedback. Look at the feedback, learn from it, and make notes and changes; you cannot reuse this specifically for another assignment, but it may be an important writing sample for your future career. It may also be something you can extend and maybe even turn into a publication at some point in the future.\[1\]