Economics 496, Autumn 2012
Honors Seminar

Office: Savery 338
Office Phone: 206 543-6197
Instructor Home Page

Instructor: Yu-chin Chen
Time/Location: W3:30-5:20pm/ SAV 155
Office Hours: Sign up for a time slot here or by appointment



* Honors Thesis Logistics

* Useful Handouts on econometrics, Stata tutorial,...etc. (for registered students only)

* Samples theses (for registered students only)

* Links:

- Useful Data Sources

- 1) Tips for Thesis Writing; 2) Suggested Citation Guide

- Economics Writing Guide (Bates)

- Writing in Economics (Duke)


Course Description

Honors and other students in high standing have the opportunity to develop research techniques, to pursue topics in breadth and depth, and to apply tools of economic analysis to selected topics in economic theory and current issues of national and international economic policy. This purpose of Econ 496 is to help students develop feasible research proposals and identify potential thesis advisors for Econ 497. Class will consist of individual meetings as well as occasional group meetings (see class schedule). For seniors only.

* Students are strongly encouraged to have taken Econometrics and at least a couple 400-level courses.

** Students should have taken Econ 396 already.


Course Objective:

This course will provide a forum for undergraduate honors students to pursue independent thesis research. Lectures and discussions will aim to help students understand the research process better as well as develop the necessary techniques for writing good economics papers. There will be several deadlines throughout the quarter to ensure that good progress is being made, and students will receive critical/constructive feedback on their ideas and work, both from the instructor and from fellow students. By the end of the course, students will put together a substantive research proposal of 12 to 15 pages, which they will continue to develop in Econ 497 with an individual advisor.


Class Format:

The class meetings are from 3:30 to 5:20pm on Wednesdays. Although full-class meetings may not be held every week, students should not schedule other activities during this period as there will be individual or small group office hours with the instructor to discuss progress. Class participation (presenting your own work thoughtfully and accessibly, while commenting appropriately on other students work) will be a non-trivial portion of the final grade.


Thesis Content:

Acceptable theses are those which are original, involve “creating” knowledge using primary sources, and aim to make a worthwhile contribution to a relevant economic question. Sometimes this contribution comes from an interesting empirical or theoretical result, but other times contributions can arise from showing how an apparently promising avenue of research may not prove fruitful. The thesis does NOT have to involve data or regressions; it can be a purely theoretical exposition, and sometimes it can be entirely literary with no data or equations. However, remember that one of the most crucial elements in research is to demonstrate why your conclusion is sound, and it is often easier to do so with empirical or theoretical support for your arguments.

To quote Prof. Ben Friedman of Harvard University, "the goal [of a senior thesis] is to achieve some level of originality: if not to suggest a whole new idea, then to bring some new perspective to bear on a familiar question, or to expose it to new empirical data - in short, to reach some conclusion (even if that conclusion is that the data do not warrant a clear answer to the question posed) that you could not have simply looked up by finding the right article in the American Economic Review."


Date Topics Notes

Assignments **

Sept 26 The Thesis Writing Process: 1. Finding a Topic Logistics HW1 due by 5pm, Mon Oct 1, via email:
Oct 3* (Individual Office Hours)    
Oct 10 2. Literature Review   HW2 due by 5pm, Mon Oct 15
Oct 17 * (Individual Office Hours)    
Oct 24 Student Presentations I + Office Hours   HW3 due by 5pm Tuesday, Oct 23 or Oct 30
Oct 31 3. Structuring the Proposal + Presentation II   Lit Review/Prelim Proposal, due by 5pm, Fri Nov 9th
Nov 7 * (Individual Office Hours)    
Nov 14 Peer Review    
Nov 21 * (Individual Office Hours)   Draft Proposal due by 5pm, Mon Nov 19th or 26th
Nov 28 Final Presentations and Discussions    
Dec 5 Final Presentations and Discussions   Final Proposal, due by 5pm, Thursday Dec 13th

* there will not be group meetings on these dates. Students are REQUIRED TO sign up for individual meetings with the instructor via OFFICE HOURS SIGN UP SHEET.

** The purpose of all assignments is to help advance the writing of your thesis, not to create extra work. If your research progresses on schedule, you should have no problem preparing these assignments as a by-product of work already completed. If you feel one of these assignments is particularly far from your research trajectory, please talk to me. (But given the broad nature of these assignments, exemptions will be granted only in well-justified cases.) All assignments are due electronically to


Sample Theses:

2012 Samples:

2011 Winning theses:



2010 Winning theses:

2009 Winning theses:

Older theses: