Paper #1

Paper Paper

Hard Copy Due Before Feb Break


The goal of this paper is to:

  • get you started on your term paper (first and foremost)
  • allow me to provide concrete feedback on your topic
  • allow me to provide feedback on writing.

For a “standard” term paper where you are reading research papers in development economics, I ask that you pick two papers on your proposed topic. Your task is then to read, compare, and contrast them. The paper should then have the following format:

  1. Introduction: you should begin with 2-3 paragraphs (1.5 pages) that state your topic. At this point you may not be quite sure what that will be.
    • Nevertheless you should be able to an indication in the first sentence in what your general interest is, and then use the first paragraph to motivate your choice. What is the big issue?
    • Your next paragraph should indicate how you will proceed – are you looking only a a certain country, or time period, or rural but not urban.
    • Is there a basic theoretical or empirical approach to the issue? That might best fit in a separate paragraph.
    • What have you found so far – you know of at least 10 papers that seem relevant, and here you are picking the two that are the oldest / the most recent / have the clearest abstract / you have the pdfs.
  2. The middle of your paper then compares and contrasts (at least) the two core sources at hand. This section likely needs 2 pages per paper. Of course that expands if you have extended quotes or include tables or graphs from the papers, and can be more concise if the papers are very similar.

    • How do their topics differ?
    • Do they use similar data? – country, time period, other component?
    • Do they get the same core results?
    • What do they point to as open questions that they’ve not been able to answer, or that would require studies that complement what they are doing?
    • What are their policy implications
    • Are they compelling?
  3. The conclusion is NOT a summary – this is a short paper!! Instead you want 2-3 paragraphs (1-1½ pages):
    • What, having read these two papers, do you feel are the important questions?
    • What are the big defects of these papers?
    • Where next?

In the end your paper should thus be 5-7 pages long, not including space for quotes or tables. Your actual content will vary with subject and the papers you pick. If you are working from a single book, then you’ll need to adapt what you’re doing – you’re not likely to be at the point of having read two books on your topic. But the basic structure of topic & motivation, results from your initial reading or research, and a forward-looking conclusion are a constant.

See the (generic) paper guidelines for format and writing pointers.

Which is better:

It is best to avoid being verbose and prolix through the use of the passive voice and imprecise modifiers and doubled subjects in your sentences and phrases.


Write concisely!