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Department-by-Department Reference Guide

Writing in Economics Courses

A Sampling of Advice from Faculty

1.  What kinds of writing assignments can I expect in Economics classes?

     In some lower-division principles courses you might be assigned to write a short analysis of Wall Street Journal articles. In upper-division classes, common requirements include essay questions on exams, short papers on specific topics, and research papers with first and second drafts.

2.  What qualities of writing are especially valued in Economics classes?
      An outstanding paper in Economics has a clearly stated thesis, concise and coherent organization, and empirical information to back up its arguments. The conclusion of the paper should follow logically from the arguments and material presented. The paper should demonstrate a solid understanding of economic theory. The research backing up the paper should include extensive references to the appropriate academic literature. Finally, an outstanding paper should be free of spelling and grammatical errors, and should be written clearly.

3.  What kinds of evidence are recognized as valid in Economics papers?

     The kind of evidence that is appropriate will vary according to the type of writing assignment. In justifying economic arguments, students normally should refer to published research in academic journals and monographs. In some cases, statistical data in government publications may be used to support economic arguments. Documentation for research papers should be thorough.

4.  What citation conventions will I be expected to use in Economics?

     This varies according to the instructor—always check. Many prefer an in-text reference system where the author and date are stated in parenthesis and all references are listed at the end of the paper. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) presents the best known format of this type. For help with APA citations, click here.

5.  Special advice for writing in Economics classes:

  • Avoid both casual and flowery language. Economics is an analytical subject, and your writing style should reflect this.
  • Think and write logically.
  • Document your arguments carefully.
  • Use an outline.
  • Avoid unsubstantiated statements.
  • Critically evaluate the articles you read and use.

Outstanding research papers by Economics majors
may be submitted by instructors for consideration in the
Department of Economics Term Paper Competition.

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Page Last Modified: October 18, 2018

  For suggestions and corrections, please email
Dr. Rebecca Nowacek, Associate Professor of English
Director of the Ott Memorial Writing Center, 240 Raynor Library (414.288.5542)
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