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Economics M.A. Courses & Resources

Master's Paper Proposal Requirements

The Master's Paper Proposal (hereafter "proposal") is the first step toward the eventual completion of a master's paper (or thesis) that will fulfill the requirement for completion of the degree program. The Graduate Committee must first approve a proposal before a student starts to work on his or her master's paper (or thesis).

A proposal must include these three parts:

  1. Motivation. The motive of the paper, i.e. explain the significance of your work. Answer questions like: Why is the topic at hand worth studying? What would be the significance of the potential results?
  2. Methodology. Explain the approach that will be used tackle the problem at hand. For example, if a regression equation is to be used, then present your regression equation and discuss the expected signs for each parameter to create your testable hypotheses. (Note: This process helps you avoid modifying regression equations on an ad hoc basis; for instance, adding additional covariates until finding a specification that yields statistical significance.)
  3. Data. List the data sources available and why they are appropriate for your empirical methodology. If the paper is theoretical and not empirical, then discuss the basics of your model and why/how it is different from previous models.

There is not a required word count or length for the proposal. However, proposals sufficiently covering the requirements are usually no less than one page.

General Guidelines for ECON 6950 and ECON 6960

  • You have the choice of writing a thesis (ECON 6950) or a research paper (ECON 6960). ECON 6950 is a formal master's paper subject to additional guidelines.
  • In either case, submit a one-page proposal to the Graduate Chair. Next, with the assistance of the Graduate Chair, find two faculty members to work with you throughout. Once the paper is approved by your master's paper advisers, submit to the Graduate Chair a pdf copy of your approved paper, the data in excel, and approval form signed by your advisers before you receive a credit for the master's paper.
  • If you choose ECON 6950, you must follow the College of Arts & Sciences Thesis Guidelines and defend your paper in a meeting open to faculty and graduate students.
  • Sign up for ECON 6960 (or ECON 6950) in the semester the paper is expected to be finished.
  • An empirical paper should have at least six parts:
    • Introduction: Motivate the paper and explain the importance of your topic.
    • Literature Review: Present a summary of related recent works in the literature. This part should not be more than two pages. Make sure to cite the papers that you discuss in this section. The Reference section of your paper should provide complete information on the papers that you cite in the literature review.
    • Empirical Model: If you are writing an empirical paper, an empirical model should be presented. Make sure to cite the papers whose model(s) you are using. Next, present your data. This should include the period of your study, the type of your data (annual, quarterly, etc), and the sources of your data.
    • Empirical Results: Present and evaluate the empirical results.
    • Conclusion: Answer the "so what" question. Draw conclusions from your empirical results and their policy implications.
    • References: All papers that you have cited in your paper must appear in this section.
  • Any deviation needs to be approved in advance by the adviser. Have your adviser sign an approval form (posted on the econ website). Submit a copy of this form [Word], a soft copy of your paper plus all data used to the Graduate Chair.
  • Plagiarism will result in expulsion from the program and possibly from the university.