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2016: Beer Paper #3

due Monday 21 March 2016

The goal of this paper is to have you read and write about two or more studies in the economics and strategy literature on the beer industry.

First, you need to locate potential papers. To speed the process, I provide a brief bibliography of papers on beer topics. That list is far from exhaustive; you can find many other studies. Furthermore, I do not provide links to all those On the web site are links to research tools, such as EconLit, EconPapers, and Google Scholar, to which I provided an introduction earlier in the term. You then need to narrow in on a topic, to find papers that overlap. I gave you an introduction to EconLit, EconPapers, the library Journals resource, Zotero and automated interlibrary loan requests, and Google Scholar to for its citation function. So you should be able to locate the items on the bibliography, and find additional ones on your own.

Second, most such papers incorporate formal data analysis. I introduced in class how to read an empirical paper, that is, a table of regression results. Even if the particular papers you read use fancier techniques, the output of analysis is generally in the same format, and you should scan for the details but often can ignore them.

Third and most important, what is the thesis or question the paper addresses? Is it sensible? What data are available? What sorts of “control” variables does the paper use? Often there are glaring holes in this process. The author(s) should spell out issues, but you need to look for that. The variables they would like to examine often differ from what they actually are able to look at in their data. Theory may be ambiguous. And so on. Read for that.

Fourth, what do they find? Remember that a variable can be statistically significant but unimportant because it is small in value or because there’s not much variation in the value of that particular variable. You need to keep in mind the summary statistics to know what the average value of the variable is, and hence whether it’s a big or small effect. Authors ought to detail this, but don’t always do so.

Fifth, what don’t they find or what don’t they test? Some papers are very good at spelling that out, others not.

Finally, in the end what does the paper tell us? Authors are wont to make exaggerated claims. After all, finding nothing generally means the paper doesn’t get published! Use your judgement. And as you’ll likely see, papers may reach opposite conclusions – or, reassuringly, they may get different results despite different markets, time periods, methodologies and so on.

As always, write well: you want your reader (in this case me) to think about your content, and (ideally) not even notice your prose and paragraphs. State your topic up front, and don’t digress. Tacking on an extra page or two of material that is not germane will not improve your grade. This is a short paper, not a book; the “state – argue – restate” rule of thumb is not appropriate for an economics paper.

In structure you need to spend at least a paragraph explaining the topic(s) of each paper, followed by a paragraph or two on methodology and data, and likewise a paragraph or two on results. Of course you must preface the paper with a statement of your overall topic, while at the end of the paper you raise those “so what” questions as a conclusion. So an introductory half-page, 2 or so pages each on the papers, and a half-page of conclusions means that 5 pages is a reasonable length. However, that is only a rough suggestion. The actual length will be a function of your topic and the nature of the issues you address.

The Wms Communication Center links are on this web site!!