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Final (steel) Paper

—The paper is due by the finish of exams on Friday 18 December 2015—

please put a pledged hard copy in the box outside my office door; keep an electronic copy as backup

For your final paper focus on one firm in the steel industry and argue what their strategic direction should be. You may pick a steel firm, or an upstream/downstream firm in the industry (a mining firm or a steel user). One way to frame the paper is as a memo from yourself (as VP of Strategy) to the CEO or Board.

As resources use (i) annual reports and similar material for that firm, (ii) the Martin text and (iii) class content. Of course you should also draw upon (iv) the Warrian book!

Keep in mind key structures in the industry:

  • fixed vs variable costs
  • price elasticity of demand
  • technical change
  • substitution possibilitiess
  • number of firms and other metrics of competition
  • vertical structure
  • product differentiation
  • intellectual property – copyrights, patents, trade secrets
  • advertising

However, do keep it concrete by focusing on a firm, and not the industry as a whole.

I am structuring this as a paper, not as an exam. So while from the syllabus and Martin text you can list topics covered this term, you may conclude that some are not central to the strategic choices you wish to present. If so, don’t feel compelled to list them!

This should be a standard paper: ① name/date at the top, ② a title, ③ an introduction including your key claim, ④ a presentation of the theoretical issue(s), ⑤ a presentation of data, and ⑥ your analysis/results. You then ⑦ conclude (not summarize!) the paper followed by ⑧ your bibliography. While it is binding whether or not you explicitly do so, it’s also good to ⑨ pledge at the end. If you stick to this format, then you need about 1 page for the intro plus summary, 1-2 pages to set forth your analytic framework, 2 pages to set forth your data, and 1-2 pages to undertake your analysis.

Again, you should aim for lean prose and tight argumentation – if you make a point in the paper, it should not be reiterated, and should certainly not appear in your conclusion. Instead in your final paragraph(s) you could for example note strategic issues that you believe are important other than the one(s) taken up as your topic, or data that you don’t have but that should be available and are critical to your argument.