How to Write a Good Paper guidelines

How to Write a Good Paper


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1. The ability to write a good paper is one of the most important skills that a college graduate can bring to the job market. A more immediate benefit is that it can raise your grade in this course.


2. A paper should address a well-defined question, bringing logical arguments and factual evidence to bear in answering that question. You should assume that the reader is not very familiar with your topic area, and therefore you need to describe some background material to put your question in context. It may take a few paragraphs to define the question precisely. The body of the paper presents the logical arguments (and perhaps some definitions of terms) and the evidence supporting or casting doubt on the statements you make. The final paragraph should review the arguments that you have made and should restate your main conclusions (with appropriate qualifications). Below I will give some examples of how to frame the question of your paper.


3. The last page of your paper should be a list of references. You should refer to these references in the body of your paper, sometimes giving the page number when you are citing a particular fact or idea. Feel free to list the assigned books and articles among your references. I expect you to be familiar with the assigned readings that relate to your topic.


4. Examples of paper topics and possible ways to approach them:

a. Lessons from the xxx crisis. You would describe the events leading up to the crisis, then the unfolding of the crisis, and then the consequences of the crisis. What could have been done differently (and by whom) to avoid or ameliorate the damage from the crisis? You could choose one of the crises described in the Gerber book, or you may choose another crisis. You may define the crisis as you choose; for example, the Euro Crisis could be approached from the point of view of one or another country, or it could be taken as a whole. Similarly for the Latin American Debt Crisis of the 1980s.

b. The case for flexible exchange rates. Milton Friedman wrote a classic paper 1953 advocating flexible exchange rates. I have posted a paper by Harry Johnson 1969 and a paper by Dellas and Tavras 2017, both of which deal with Friedman’s arguments. You could take this topic in various directions. You could put the argument in historical context of the Bretton Woods system and explain how flexible rates would have made that system work better. Or you could consider what individual countries should do in the present world. In a world of high international capital mobility, are flexible exchange rates the only solution? What would a country have to do to make fixed exchange rates work?

c. What is an Optimal Currency Area? You could describe the concept, as presented by Robert Mundell (1961) in a paper I have posted on Blackboard. You could explain whether a particular country group constitute an optimal currency area; the European Union or the Euro area countries are examples, but you could consider whether the different regions of the United States should have their own currencies. The paper would explore the advantages and disadvantages of different arrangements.

d. Which types of countries should have open capital markets? In particular, should less-developed countries, or emerging market countries open their capital markets to free movements of international capital? Why or why not?

e. Financial regulation policies for individual countries. How should banks and other financial institutions be regulated? What failures of regulation (or its enforcement) contributed to financial crisis? You should indicate what country or type of country you are considering in answering this question.

f. What role for currency boards? How do they work? Where have they been used? Is this an arrangement that makes sense for some countries? Why have they failed in particular cases? The Argentine Currency Board of 1991-2001 is a possible case study. What went wrong? What should the Argentine authorities have done differently?

g. What caused the Great Depression? I posted two papers on this topic, one by Christine Romer, the other by Peter Temin. See Lecture 6 on the Great Depression.


5. Grammar and style. Please run spell-check on your paper. The following common grammatical mistakes should be avoided. (a) Run-on sentence. Example: Economists had a naïve view of government, they thought government officials were honest and competent. Here two sentences have been separated by a comma, rather than a period (a semi-colon would also be correct here). (b) Sentence fragment. Every sentence has to have both a subject and a verb. (c) The contraction of “it is” is it’s; the possessive form is “its.” (d) The verb affect is spelled with an “a.” The consequences of an action are its effects, spelled with an “e.” Example: The break-up with his girl friend affected his emotional health, but its effects on his diet were minimal.


Two notes on plagiarism. (1) Students sometimes commit the crime of plagiarism without realizing it. Whenever you use the words of another author, you must put the words in quotes and give a citation to the source, including the page number. It is quite permissible to include fairly long quotations from sources, but of course most of the paper must be your own words. The basic idea is that you must not present other people’s work as your own. (2) When you list a source at the end of your paper, it is assumed that you have actually consulted that source. However, there is an exception to this rule: Suppose you are reading an article by Jones, who cites an article by Smith, and you want to acknowledge that the information or the idea that you are presenting comes from Smith. Then you should list Smith, but add “as cited by Jones.” Again, the basic idea is that you must not present other people’s work as your own.


You must get your topic approved before writing your paper. Please email me your topic by April 17; I will email back either approving the topic or suggesting some modification. The topic sheet should state the question or questions that you will address in the paper, and it should list a couple of references that you have already consulted.

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