William Thomson, A Guide for the Young Econ- omist: Writing and Speaking Effectively about. Economics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.,. The MIT Press . You may have been asked by your adviser or another faculty member in your department to referee a paper for a journal. You agonized over the job, not. By William Thomson; Abstract: This book is an invaluable guide for young economists working on their dissertations, preparing their first articles.
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This book is an invaluable handbook for young economists working on their dissertations, preparing their first articles for submission to professional journals,.. . Detailed advice on writing papers, giving presentations, and refereeing, plus an essential guide to the basics of being a graduate student in economics. Request PDF on ResearchGate | A Guide for the Young Economist | This book is an invaluable guide for young economists working on their.
Approach your committee members several months ahead of the defense. But these are just suggestions: But there should be substantial results in each of the papers you list. It is when your paper reaches completion. Some of your research projects will lead nowhere. I must have omitted issues you care about.
You will discover many sessions on topics that are totally unfamiliar to you. It happens too often on those occasions or in informal discussions that a colleague mentions being aware of a student taking his or her class.
Professors on whom you have made a good impression will speak up on your behalf when the faculty meets to discuss fellowship support or the job market.
But the focus should be on building general skills as opposed to learning facts. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 7 are a theorist or an applied economist.
Keep up with the readings and do some of the assignments. If yes. This will certainly require self-discipline. Assess whether you will have the time. If English is not your native language. Teaching can be another source of letters of recommendation from faculty you assisted. You will need to ask some of them to write letters of recommendation when you are on the job market.
You will discover that the only way to really understand something is to explain it not the other way around. Even if you are seeking a nonacademic job. The exam could have helped in that respect. You will learn much by being a TA in a graduate class. Potential employers want to know whether you will be an effective teacher.
They will be much more responsive if you have shown prior interest in their subject. Your department probably collects statistics on the perfor- mance of TAs. During your research. Being a TA will give you an opportunity to get to the bottom of issues that so far you had unfortunately managed to avoid.
Compiling a good record as a TA is helpful also when you are on the job market. These are many reasons already why you should be more than a name. Business schools are particularly demanding in that respect. Such letters are particularly useful if you guest- lectured in an advanced course. You will also need to compose a dissertation committee. Giving you a private lecture about a topic presented in a class you did not attend is not how your professors want to spend their time.
The amount of work very much depends on the number of students you will be responsible for. In some departments. During the period in which you deliver your lectures. Compulsory TA work. Summer courses for undergraduates. Evening courses. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 9 The lectures you prepare now will be there for you to revise and use after you graduate and start teaching.
A math or statistics review class for incoming graduate students just before school formally starts. To be assigned this course.
These obligations vary widely from department to department. Teaching assistantship usually means grading. In some. The course is usually intensive and you will need to devote much energy to get ready for it. Additional teaching assistantships.
Try to get that information. Whether it is accepted may depend upon how many students register for it. In others. Departments offer a number of teaching opportunities: Some of them are basic courses introductory economics. It will also look good on your CV that you have been trusted with this assignment. Individual professors whose courses you have attended may ask you to give a lecture in their graduate class if you have done well in it. It is obvious that you will not be assigned the course if you have not shown interest and ability in the related graduate courses that you have taken.
Most likely though. Meet visitors In some departments. That should. Your research is really what counts to get into a high-level research university. Teaching in your home country. Ask questions. You have opted to spend an hour and a half in a windowless room.
You may feel that you should defer to the professors and to your older classmates. Some seminars in the business school or the political science department may be relevant as well. You will be expected to take teaching seriously. Read the papers that will be presented. This will be good. Teaching opportunities in neighboring colleges and universities. It should be a short course. Try to coordinate with him or her so as to maximize over- lap of the intervals when you are both in town.
Your classmates will tell you they were glad you asked. You may fear that your questions will not be very good. These occasions will help you negotiate your transition to being a professor. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 11 be an additional reason to read the paper that the visitor will present. Visitors are free of their usual duties and may be. The pleasure is mutual. You may also meet a visitor as a group.
I asked sev- eral of our recent graduates for comments on their experience on the job market. Prepare questions. Seminar speakers usually come for a single day. The image you need to project when on the job market is that you are ready to be a professor: When you are getting close to enter- ing the job market.
Your third year is not too early to start signing up occasionally. In writing these notes. After returning home. You may get very useful comments from someone who often will have a different perspective from that of the faculty you know. You may have shown your work to quite a few people already. A most frequent comment was that they had found meetings with visitors extremely valuable in the preceding years.
You may invite the visitor to the neighboring coffeehouse. Undoubt- edly. You can also send your paper ahead of time to a visiting speaker. The circumstances will dif- fer from actual interviews in a number of respects you will not have a blackboard then. It is also not uncommon for visitors to take the initiative and ask to meet students when planning their visits. I can cite very successful careers that began with two students writing joint papers.
My empirically minded colleagues proposed that you will be credited with up to three-fourths of a paper on which you have one coauthor. Some discounting of joint work does occur but it is not very substantial.
That being said. Even better. If that is not the case. For healthy long-term relationships with your coauthors. At least. So will your coauthor. Ask your advisor to arrange a meeting. You may also write papers with classmates. How is the recruiting committee supposed to disentangle your contribution from that of your coauthor?
The problem is compounded if you and your coauthor are not in the same graduating class. Ask the more advanced students to share their experience. But until then. If there is an economics library. Attend the named yearly lectures given by famous people. Have a cup of coffee with the classmates you run into. Your advisor may or may not have the time to chat with you for very long.
Being a Graduate Student in Economics 13 stacks or at home. It may save you several days of frustration. Attend the social events connected with the conference.
Tell your advisor about an exciting paper you have just come across. You need to be in regular contact with your classmates. Even though there is always email to stay in touch. These interactions will help your advisor remain aware of what is happening in your life. It is because of these exchanges that you will understand what a particular course is all about. You can subscribe to email lists of journals for articles in press and for working papers. When reading those. Attend seminars as early as you can.
Do not spend all of your time reading. What you should look for are not only the conclusions the author was able to draw. After reading each paper. Reading the Nobel citations should easily convince you of that. For new papers. Learn to use library resources such as EconLit. Download papers as they become available on the web pages of jour- nals. There are many examples in the history of economics.
When you are still taking courses. Always have some project to work on. But as you will discover. Once again. From your third year on. Any paper you read builds on others that you do not know and will want to read. You might be making a big mistake by dismissing a simple question for being too simple. Read it to identify the various ways in which it can be improved.
You will certainly acquire a vast knowledge of the literature. Try to answer them. It may not yet be the big project that you need. Science Direct is a user-friendly site. What questions is the paper not answering? Read with a pen pencil. That is. But do drop a project if your new ideas look much more promising.
When frustrated or disap- pointed with one. The twists and turns that research takes may well transform what looked like an easy exercise into a nontrivial and interesting one. Some of your research projects will lead nowhere. Resist the temptation to forever drop older projects and jump into new ones. When you have successfully tackled a problem. Brace yourself for these possibilities. Computer scientists obviously address computational issues.
Economists may not be aware of this literature. Mathematicians sometimes ask questions that we perceive as technical. As it evolves. Your paper may not be as important as you were hoping. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 15 answers. Normative concepts that we take for granted are not discussed in these other literatures. These modeling choices may affect the generality of the answer. On the other hand.
New ideas are always more exciting to work on. The unexpected changes of direction that a research project can take as it develops makes this pointless. I know that this is small consolation when you have just been scooped. Some departments provide funds to advanced students for the purpose of attending conferences. After your paper is accepted. Do so and move on. Finally and yes. Most journals do not require submissions in their format until a paper is accepted.
Acknowledge priorities that have to be acknowledged. These are often less formal also shorter. If there is no such series. Lists of future events are available on the web.
Hold it every other week. Before that. You have surely already shown most of it to your advisor and to your friends. You may have to submit your paper to several journals in succession. It is not useful to begin writing a paper with a particular journal in mind. You may not have been aware of some previous literature when you wrote your paper. It is when your paper reaches completion. Revise it again. Do not waste an occasion to make a good impression on people whose opinion you care about—and will care about for several.
That is nice to them. If there is a prob- lem somewhere in your paper. By proceeding in this way. After the suggestions have dwindled to a few minor comments. You should seek them. Circulating your work Every paper you write has been inspired by some previous work. You may once again get suggestions. When you start circulating your paper. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 17 things that would improve your paper and you are able to carry out these improvements. Revise your paper according to the comments you get.
Those are people whom you have met in person. A poor performance may be the main memory that some- one in the audience retains of you for a long time. The next opportunity to correct a negative impression may lie many years ahead.
Obvious candidate recipients are fellow students who graduated a year or two before. You should also carefully consider when to post the data you have painfully collected. It is that your paper will affect the per- ception that others have of the quality of the work done under his or her direction.
Any- one can work on the open questions you raised. After you start circulating your paper. You will often receive com- ments there that will lead to a better version. There should be a good match between paper and journal in several dimensions.
Trade-offs will have to be assessed. Advisors do not only have the inter- est of their current advisees in mind. Do not sit on the paper forever waiting to get some. It is very possible of course that you will get no comments. You may want to fully exploit it before making it public. Ask your advisor what is the best strategy to follow.
That is the one you should circulate. They also care about the interest of their future students. Whether a particular journal has published in your area of research is an important consideration.
As your paper gets more polished and you have presented it a few times already. These dimensions are: Subject matter. There is some strategizing in choosing when and where to sub- mit your work. Your advisor will help you weigh all the considerations that go into selecting the right journal. Even though we all understand that receiving a paper does not mean that the work has been formally and fully endorsed.
Submitting your paper. There is another reason why you should consult with your advisor before circulating your paper. If you had a good chance of doing so yourself. Quality and rank. Methodology and style. In fact it may be counterproductive. This is especially so as this randomness will play against you on other occasions. A few short years after you graduate.
When you are on the job market. Response time. The ranking of the journals in which you publish is important. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 19 to the journal in which the papers that directly inspired yours appeared is natural: How formal or discur- sive your style of writing is should affect your choice too. You should consider whether your contri- bution has potential policy implications. Submitting a paper in your third year is a reasonable objective. Publishing in a higher-rank journal gives young authors more visibility.
Whether your paper has a reasonable chance of being accepted matters. Over time. Whether the paper is actually published does not matter. Your dissertation will stamp a date on it.
How you parcel your work into individual papers for submission to journals is what is important. It is no longer intended to be an in-depth study of a particular subject. There is also no universal law that dictates how long a chapter should be. In any case. That is separate from how you package it into the chapters of your dissertation. Long-term publication objectives. A paper can be submitted to only one journal at a time. It is where you can put on record material that you will suppress.
You should not overwhelm a particular journal by sending it several chapters of your dissertation in short succession. Tedious and routine calculations from which there is little to be learned. Journals seek some diversity in the authors they publish. A disser- tation is simply a set of essays. You can also use your web page for material that you will not publish but that is complementary to your published work.
The one remaining advantage of a dissertation is that you face no space constraint. Some may. When choosing a particular journal for a paper submission. Most readers of your papers will not be interested in this information. If you take initiative. At some point. The professor may have been on leave during your second year. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 21 A focused and crisp study. Joint work with a fellow student or with your advisor can be part of your thesis.
An obvious prerequisite for you to ask a professor to be your advisor is that you have taken the advanced course or courses this professor teaches. Most often. These interactions may even evolve into joint work—a note perhaps.
The formal step may only be taken months later however. Your advisor will help you judge whether a line of research is likely to be productive.
They certainly achieve that.
Even if you do not take it for credit. So why deprive yourself of the opportunity? The advisor is there to advise. Having an experienced and well-known senior professor as advisor will give you greater visibility when you are on the market. Your advisor will instruct you in the protocols of research. Come to the lectures regularly and show up on time.
When you are on the market perhaps before that. The advisor may point out certain papers that have recently come out and seem to open up interesting avenues of research. Some advisors will ask that you make an appointment. At critical times. They may for instance raise questions that came up in their own work and that they did not have the time to handle or could not solve.
Papers based on your own ideas are what you need to write. Others have an open door policy and will talk to you when you stop by if he or she is available. As the job market nears. Your advisor will also advertise you and your work.
You can also expect encouragement when you are doing well and support when you are not. Professors may of course supply some in classes you take. It depends on you too. It may even solve that question. How frequently will you meet with your advisor? This varies greatly among advisors. If the student still has trouble generating such questions. Doing so will sharpen your understanding of it. Do not think that your advisor will check all your proofs or verify how correctly you conducted your empirical study.
The obvious reason is that recruiting committees will wonder about the contribution of each of you. Your research may begin with a joint paper with your advisor. Your advisor may go over some steps of an argument. A lenient referee who recommends too quickly that your paper be accepted is not doing you any favors.
Your relationship with your advisor will evolve with time. There are of course many components to the process of research. You cannot expect your advisor to go through the multiple successive drafts of your paper with equal care. Those can be your starting point but as your research develops. It is only when confronted with a particular issue. Your advisor is there to accelerate the process.
Such assurance is very common. Your advisor is not your proofreader either. Inspect the programs of the relevant conferences. Altogether though.
Or your valet: Claude Henri de Rouvray. But even then. Your advisor will remind you why an issue is important and what to do about it. Over the several years during which your advisor will perform this role. Comte de Saint-Simon — instructed his valet to wake him every morning with this. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 25 and having dealt with it inadequately that you will really understand the advice you received from your professors or read in manuals.
Bring the papers you found to his or her attention. It is up to you to track down the relevant work. For that reason. Your advisor is not your mother. You have more time to do so than your advisor does.
When examining your work. The formal switch does not have to occur right away. A ruined aristocrat. If you have a family. Monsieur le Comte. I add only a few comments.
Formally dissolving the relationship may be awkward. Your advisor not being your valet means that you will have to seek this kind of help somewhere else. Your advisor may take a job elsewhere. You should get up on your own. If you have not yet started research. No matter how well things go during their studies.
Unless you are one of the handful of superstars that the market produces every year. A three-day trip may indeed not be very useful. You should then make extended trips to visit your advisor. The same comment applies to advice on personal matters.
Saint-Simon is the founder of a proto-socialist movement that played an important role up to the nineteenth century. During such a short period. When you are done with the whole search process. But these emotions will be mixed with the excitement of entering a new phase of your life. If you receive an acceptance from a journal.
They may for instance read the papers that they did not have the time to look at in the early rounds. If you just received an acceptance for your job market paper. I should qualify this. The infor- mation supplied in October in the packets sent out by your department is not necessarily what members of search committees will limit them- selves to. If you have recently published a paper.
At each campus visit. Keep revising your papers. Revise it as well as you can after each such occasion. Here too. You will travel to cold and distant outposts. The experience will have its enjoyable moments too. It will involve a lot of waiting: Throughout the process. They may visit your page at any point. They should be able to download them. A professor in the department is also assigned the job of placement director.
Seven years raises eyebrows. There is no reason why he or she should have to chase you for the document.
Respect these deadlines. Six years may be longer than you expected when you enrolled. I do not have statistics. Information about job market candidates is collected separately by faculty members calling their colleagues and friends in other departments.
This occurs in November and early December. A very important one is when to submit your CV for inclusion in the packet sent out by the department. The graduate secretary and the placement director generally hold a meeting early in the fall to walk you through the steps of the job search process.
During that whole period. The graduate secretary will also collect information about job openings. Climbing up the hierarchy of schools with hard work is possible. Should you take the chance? This is of course when you should have one of those impor- tant conversations with your advisor.
People will remember a failed attempt and wonder what went wrong. By the time of the ASSA meeting. Two substantial and polished papers is common at the time of application. Early in the fall. You may feel that you have nothing to show for all the work that you have put into a project. You should be ready. The main results have to be in at that point. One paper may be enough.
The main idea for a paper. For sure. But it has rarely been in vain. Although the paper you intend to use for the job market will typically not be quite done in September. Think of it as an investment. Determining when you are ready to go on the market may be delicate. The returns will be unpredictable in their timing and magnitude. In the higher-ranked schools. Your advi- sor will help you assess the academic consequences of your decision. By the way. You need to be patient.
Being a Graduate Student in Economics 29 A better question than how long it takes to write a thesis is how much work you should have accomplished to be on the market.
During an interview. Such a position is most useful if. You may indi- cate work other than your dissertation in order to show the breadth of your interests. Some postdocs are two-year appointments and it is not as likely that a department that offered you an assistant professorship will let you take such a position for both years.
A small number of postdoc positions are available. Do not worry about the department whose offer you accepted. Of course. A one- year postdoc position will give some time to complete papers and to get some acceptances from journals. You should also know how the subject has evolved since you did the work. When you eventually assume your position. If your paper develops a theoretical model that you then test empir- ically or experimentally. You may print in different type- face italics.
As always. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 31 Similarly. If you have dispersed yourself too much. Picture this reader: Although the topics of your various papers need not be closely related. As an undergraduate. In your opening sentence. Having demonstrated both skills will be an argument in your favor. The interest in your work does not come from an abstract entity. Your advocates are likely to be people who see you as strengthening a particular area in their depart- ment usually theirs.
But there should be substantial results in each of the papers you list. The same comment applies later on. Do not use minuscule font to write more. Your potential employers need to know who you are.
A professor who does not know you well will be reluctant to accept. If you have shown initiative throughout the program. Bring them your papers as you complete them. The letter from you advisor will discuss the totality of your work.
Approach faculty ahead of time for their letters. You need to establish connec- tions with professors much earlier than the fall semester of the year when you are on the market. Recommendations Recommendation letters are very important. It will explain its genesis.
A couple of months before they are needed is not too early. Letters from other members of the faculty will often be more limited in scope. There is no way she will have the time to take a look at more than a few of the papers themselves. A good letter is one that emphasizes the independence and the matu- rity that you have shown in formulating the questions you addressed. Schedule your job market practice talk in your depart- ment at least two or three weeks before the letters are due.
You need to grab her attention even if she only skims your application. Your being an active participant in classes and workshops will be noted. Recommendations are not usually tailored to schools. But having attended a seminar you gave is still little information on which to base a recommendation. The letter will also discuss your personal character.
That is how you should. It speaks well of a student that his or her work is already known beyond his or her own department. If the person has initiated an exchange with you. This could be an important document.
Do not miss it. The committee will stay in character during the entire interview and will give you feedback only when it is complete. The practice is extremely valuable. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 33 Recommendations for the job market and later. It could be a person with whom you corresponded about your work.
A letter of recommendation can be written by someone outside your department. If you have taught outside your university. You may have requested recommendations in the second or third year of your program—say. You will be surprised how intimidating it is to suddenly face a row of your professors.
Someone who has already written on your behalf will be much more likely to be willing to do it again than someone who has to start from scratch. In particular. It will allow you to make connections that will be a useful resource to you throughout your career. For them too. Refresh your memory and stand ready to justify why you proceeded as you did. Be grateful. Whether or not you inform them of the offer you have received. At various points when develop- ing your work.
Your interviewer may hone in on those. You may be asked tough questions. The U. This is certainly what we observe on our side. If your department arranges for several interviews for each student that day.
Do not ruin your chances by behaving inconsiderately. For practice. Even if you eventually want to return home. Accepting it may be counterproductive if you are not fully ready.
Giving good answers during these visits matters the most. Your professional development requires that you move on. Being a Graduate Student in Economics 35 information. A phone call from a chair that a department has voted to make you an offer is not enough to remove yourself from consideration at other schools. Most schools will not hire their own graduates at least not initially. Early interest from a school certainly signals that you will be particularly welcome there.
Each offer comes with an expiration date. You should inform of this offer any school that you have visited and that you would prefer. There is in general no good reason to apply to a department whose offer you know for sure you will decline.
The ASSA interviews will give you the opportunity to practice and polish your answers. Offers have to be approved by university administrations. In the course of the ASSA interviews. You have to collect your thoughts or yourself if things did not go well.
Be ready for that and do not get too upset. Interviews take place in hotel rooms. The depart- ment is also unlikely to extend an offer to you before the ASSA process takes its course. Rescheduling may not be pos- sible anyway. You will be offered a chair and a glass of water but some of your interviewers will be sitting on the bed.
Your plane may be delayed or even canceled. One group may be in the living room of a suite. You should arrive on Wednesday. You are unlikely to accept such an offer before knowing what your opportunities are.
Some schools will conduct several interviews in parallel. Be on time for each interview. Half an hour between two interviews is barely enough unless they are in the same hotel. Your interview may be disrupted by loud conversation next door or bursts of laughter. The TV could even be on. You may miss a whole day of interviews. Arriving early will eliminate the risk of having to reschedule interviews.
If possible. Often you will have been sent the names of your interviewers although last- minute additions or subtractions to committees are frequent.
Being a Graduate Student in Economics 37 Some interviews take place at interview tables in a reception hall. Your interviewers will often be dressed casually. If the committee is composed entirely of people in your area. Most of the questions that you will face will concern your job market paper.
Start without technical jargon.
Get an idea ahead of time of the composition of the committee. In a heterogeneous committee. In a job interview. Types of questions you face To prepare yourself. Being able to talk about this connection will be a very good way to begin a meaningful conversation. Consult their web page. The same comment applies to your job talk. Addressing a mixed audience requires particular skills. You may well lose some of the committee then. Good economic theory mixes rigorous mathematical reasoning with intuitive motivations and stories, which can make the task of presenting or evaluating cutting-edge research a treacherous balancing act.
In this one-of-a-kind essay, Thomson offers an armful of good advice and tricks of the trade to economists young and old, lest any of them forget that a bad container can spoil its contents.
William Thomson does for economics what Paul Halmos does for mathematics. Thomson shows the young and the non-young economist how to write lecture and submit work for editorial review. I recommend this guide to all professional economists.
How many times have valuable contributions to scholarship—written and oral—been compromised because of inadequate communication? This is far less likely to happen if economists read and think about the issues discussed in William Thomson's book. The quintessence of the French mind—precision, concision, elegance as it should be, Pascal rather than Derrida.
Everyone who knows William Thomson knows that he is not only a great economist, but also a master expositor, be it in his papers and books or in his talks. In this book, he shares his remarkable know-how with us young and not-so-young economists. William Thomson has always cared a lot for his and all our students. A Guide for the Young Economist is full of his caring wisdom which many young—and many not so young—economists will definitely benefit from.
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