Economics 191AB: Senior Essay Seminar, Winter and Spring 2006

Economics 191A is Part I of the Department's Senior Essay Seminar. Part II, 191B, is given in Spring Quarter. These courses are for students with superior records in the Economics or Management Science majors, and are required for those who wish to graduate with the "highest distinction" honors designation on their diploma. Both 191A and 191B must be taken to receive departmental honors. They are normally limited to students with a GPA of 3.5 or better in upper division Economics and Management Science courses.

The class provides an opportunity to write a piece of original research with the supervision of the instructor and the advice of him and of your classmates. If you are interested in enrolling, I ask that you write a short (one double-spaced page or less) proposal of a topic and why it is interesting. Your proposal should represent a real attempt to plan your work, but there will be no penalty if you later decide to depart from it. In the event that the class is oversubscribed, your proposal and your overall record, and possibly an interview with the instructor, will be used to decide who is admitted.

Please submit your proposal to Kimberley Newmark (in Sequoyah 245)  by November 2nd.

Instructor: Professor Vincent Crawford, Economics 319 (vcrawfor "at", 858-534-3452)

Office hours Winter and Spring quarters Wednesday 2:00-3:00 or by appointment, in Economics 319

A more printer-friendly version of this page, with the same information, is available  here (pdf; download Adobe Acrobat Reader for pdf files).

The only formal requirement of Economics 191AB is to complete a well-researched 25-35 page essay on an economics topic (approved by the instructor), by a deadline near the end of Spring Quarter. But to satisfactorily complete 191A a first draft of the essay must be turned in near the end of Winter quarter. Often, the first draft contains the essay's theoretical analysis and a preliminary description of its empirical content; but other arrangements are possible, depending on the topic.

Here are examples (pdf files, posted by permission) of excellent essays by some of your 2003-2005 ancestors:

Your work for Economics 191A can be divided into three parts:
    (1) selecting your topic, finding sufficient reference and source material, and writing a short description of your topic, including at least three references
    (2) formulating an outline
    (3) writing a first draft of your essay

Your work for Economics 191B can also be divided into three parts:
    (1) formulating a plan for completing your essay
    (2) writing and presenting a first draft of your completed essay
    (3) writing a final draft of your completed essay

At the end of each part of Economics 191A or 191B, you will turn in your work product to date. Please provide both an electronic version (preferably .pdf or .txt) and a hard copy in my mailbox.

You should think of 191A's goal not necessarily as completing a rough draft of your full essay, but of making enough progress to write up at least half of it. You are encouraged to give me drafts for comment and ask me questions throughout the quarter, and to come to see me as often as you find it helpful. My office hours both Winter and Spring quarters are W 2:00-3:00 or by appointment.

Economics 191A will meet periodically, as indicated, with times selected from TuTh 9:30-10:50pm in Sequoyah Hall room 244. The tentative schedule is:

     Tuesday, January 10: First class meeting, introduction to choosing an essay topic, finding references, and research strategies; signups for your topic
         presentations on Tuesday and Thursday, January 31 and February 2, and if necessary Tuesday, February 7
     Tuesday, January 24 (NO MEETING): Turn in a two-page description of your topic (preferably electronic) with at least three references, by 4 p.m.
and Thursday, January 31 and February 2, and if necessary Tuesday, February 7: Class meetings for short (roughly 10 minutes) presentations and
        discussions of your topics
, February 9 (NO MEETING): Turn in an outline of your essay (preferably electronic) by 4 p.m.
Friday, March 17 (last day of Winter Quarter classes): Turn in the first draft of your essay (preferably both electronic and hard copy) by 4 p.m.
Economics 191B will meet only on the first scheduled day of classes in Spring Quarter
. Again, you are encouraged to give me drafts for comment and ask me questions throughout the quarter, and to come to see me (W 2:00-3:00 or by appointment) as often as you find it helpful. The schedule is:

   Tuesday, April 4, 11:00 - 12:20 in Sequoyah 230: Class meeting: getting started on the rest of your essay
  Friday, June 9 (last day of Spring Quarter classes): Turn in final draft of your essay (both electronic and hard copy) by 4 p.m.

How to Find a Topic

At the start the main problem is deciding on your topic: something original, not too small or irrelevant, but not too big and complicated. Even more important is that the topic should be something that genuinely interests you, because otherwise you will be very tired of it by the time you write your final draft! A good topic project often has two parts, the first theory and the second empirical. Areas of research can be found in the leading general economics journals and specialty journals, and in publications of the regional Federal Reserve Banks, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Brookings Institution, environmental organizations such as Resources for the Future, and so on. A simple, possible strategy is to take a good paper published six to ten years ago in a good journal and ask how well the results hold up now; or to find a good paper based on one country or data set, and extend it to another country or data set.


The following books (on reserve in Geisel Library unless noted) may help suggest topics:

Jacqueline Brux and Janna Cowen, Economic Issues and Policy, 2nd edition, Cincinnati, OH: South-Western College Pub., 2002
Economics (periodical: in Geisel stacks at HC 101 A635), Guilford, CT: Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 1999-2000.

Edwin Dolan and John Goodman, Economics of Public Policy: TheMicro View, St. Paul, MN: West Pub. Co., 1982

Thomas Swartz and Frank Bonello, editors, Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Economic Issues, Guilford, CT: Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 2000

Steven E. Landsburg, The Armchair Economist: Economics & Everyday Life, New York: Free Press, 1993

Paul Krugman, The Age of Diminished Expectations, 3rd edition, Cambridge: MA, MIT Press, 1997

Joseph Stiglitz's and George Akerlof's Nobel lectures (both in the June 2002 American Economic Review) are helpful (and inspirational) on how to turn observations about the world into economics.

Computing and information sources
To facilitate communication and gain access to many useful resources, you must get a personal computer account from the Academic Computing Center. If you have any questions, Kimberley Newmark ( should be able to help you.
This will give you access to the Social Science Database and many useful internet sites, including these. See also the useful links at Harold Colson's (the Economics Librarian at Geisel Library) page, at .

Vincent Crawford / UCSD Department of Economics / last modified 19 June 2006

Copyright © Vincent P. Crawford, 2006. All federal and state copyrights reserved for all original material on this site.