Paper #1: Beer

→ hard copy due Friday Sept 25, 2015 in class ←

We’ve now gone through a quick overview of “beer”, albeit with a 19th century focus. Using the Warrian book as your primary source, do the same thing for steel.

I want a short paper (3-5 pages), so pick one theme out of the many possible. The list below is not exhaustive. Feel free to come up with your own. In any case, justify your choice.

  • What stands out in the cost structure?
  • What is “the” market a firm faces? – who are the purchasers?
  • What do they see as substitutes (complements?) for steel?
  • Is “steel” steel or does it consist of several loosely linked markets?

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An economics paper (as with anything other than creative writing) needs a clear theme. That normally appears in your first paragraph, often in your first sentence. The remainder of your introduction then puts your theme in context: why should we care about it?

The next paragraph (or two) provides a theoretical or analytic framework. How can you approach that question? What, for example, mattered in the case of beer?

Your core paragraphs (2-3?) then spell out your case with argument and data.

Your concluding paragraph (or two) should never summarize your introduction. You’re writing a short paper, and even if your prose is impenetrable and your structure random, the reader will remember what you’ve just said. But I’ve just given you the structure. So you conclude with questions, contrasts, and things that you’ve learned but not (yet) conveyed. “Steel is in fact two separate industries, yyy & zzz, due to…. So perhaps we “beer” is more than one industry, consisting of aaa, bbb and ccc..” “Unlike beer, distance doesn’t matter: firms ship and sell to customers globally.”

Prose should be clear, not impenetrable. Write forcefully, not passively. Avoid indefinite modifiers (“some,” “very”); economists want numbers. If you don’t have a number, throwing in a “many” doesn’t clarify matters. And proofread! – better, get a proofreader. You’re not using a typewriter, where mistakes are hard to correct, but after staring at the same page on your screen, they are hard to spot, as are weak arguments or the lack of data. So swap papers with a friend, or go the the Williams Communication Center.

Acknowledge such help. Your paper should end with that, and the W&L pledge. It should start with a title, name and date (don’t bother with a title page). For clarity use a serif font of reasonable size (Times New Roman 11pt) and good but not huge margins (1″).

You should have a bibliography (maybe one item) with inline citations (Warrian, #) with “(author, page)” the first time and “(page)” thereafter, until you change sources. Don’t spell out the paper or book title in the text. See the library web site for standard bibliographic formats, or copy-and-paste from the list on the course syllabus.

→ hard copy due Friday Sept 25, 2015 in class ←