In your academic paper, you have to present evidence, cite literature, explain economic trade-offs and generally approach the issue from an analytic perspective. You should follow some of the points of the economics writing style.
- Favor the present tense. For example, “In this paper, I attempt to…”
- Don’t use contractions, or abbreviations; write out the equivalent words.
- Favor the active tense.
- Avoid adjectives and verbs that are overly dramatic. For example, “the results shatter our expectations” is too much.
- Keep non-economics comments for your first paragraphs and your conclusion. For example, if your results have interesting political implications, you can mention them in the introduction and return to them in the conclusion. Leave them out of the body of the paper.
- Keep sentences short. Short words are better than long words.
- Positive statements are more persuasive than normative statements.
- To write the best research paper, avoid jargon. Any word you don’t read regularly in a newspaper is suspect.
- Never make up your own acronyms.
- Keep your writing self-contained. Frequent references to other works can be distracting.
- Put details and digressions in footnotes.
- Keep your writing personal. Remind readers how economics affects their lives.
- Keep it simple. Think of your reader as being a student who majors in English literature.
- Assume the reader has never taken an economics course.
Organization of Your Academic Paper
Figure out the one central and novel contribution of your paper. Write this down in one paragraph. As with all your writing, this must be concrete. Your readers are busy and impatient. They will never read the whole thing from start to finish. They skim; and you have to make it easy for them to skim. Most readers want to know your basic result.
Although your writing should not follow a journalistic style, its structure can be organized like a newspaper article. Notice how newspapers start with the most important part, then fill in background later for the readers who keep going and want more details.
The Introduction Section
The introduction should start with what you do in this paper – the major contribution. Readers will be much more motivated to read the rest of the paper, if you challenge their intuition from the word go. The first sentence is the hardest. Don’t start with philosophy. Don’t start with a long discourse on how important the issue is to public policy. It’s a waste of space. Start with your central contribution.
The Literature Review Section
It’s not necessary to cite every single paper in the literature. The main point of the literature review should be to set your paper off against the 4, or 5, closest current papers, and to give proper credit to people who deserve recognition for things that might, otherwise, seem new in your paper.
This section should be approximately 1 single-spaced page. The section should cover two parts: the first should simply describe the name and source of the data you are using, and the period it covers; the second section should present descriptive statistics of the data.
One of the most common mistakes, made by authors of economic papers, is to forget that their results need to be written up, as clearly and carefully, as any other part of the paper.
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