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Paper #3: Beer

DUE Thursday 19 December 2015

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. On the web site are links to research tools, to which I will provide and introduction. 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.

Second, most such papers incorporate formal data analysis. I will introduce how to read 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 need pay attention only as it affects what the table actually says.

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. Some variables (when the focus is a yes/no decision) are the percentage change. 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.

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.

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!!