Thesis supervision

This page provides information for students that are interested in me supervising their thesis. It provides some ideas on possible topics and guidance on methodology. I believe that a successful thesis accomplishes four main things:

(1) Choose an insightful research question within an interesting topic

The main difference between a very good thesis and an excellent thesis is whether or not you articulate, and answer, a good research question. In most theses that I see, this isn’t the case. Typically students will identify an interesting topic, and then proceed to investigate it. But the purpose of a thesis isn’t for you to learn about something, it’s about contributing to our collective understanding. I don’t expect students to have a good research question at the beginning of their project, but be wary of reaching the end of it without having one.

In terms of research topics, I consider the power of economic reasoning to stem from its applicability, and take a broad and eclectic position of what would constitute suitable subject material. For a general management thesis I don’t require students to work on the same research topics that I do. Indeed, there are several topics that I have thoughts and ideas on which I’d be delighted to see students run with. I’ve provided some examples of topics that I find interesting below:

(2) Provide a rigorous literature review

A literature review is more than just a discussion of your topic, it is supposed to survey the existing literature that relates to your research question. For more see here:

(3) Utilise the right methodological framework

To start off with, I recommend the following articles on research design:

Although I’ve created an online course on Analytics my methodological interests are in qualitative and comparative methods.

There are also a few techniques that I am willing to work with students interested in using, regardless of the topic:

If you use standard quantitative methods then be aware of the social priming replication crisis, publication bias and avoid p hacking. For more listen to:

(4) Demonstrate competent project planning

This is crucial because it determines whether the experience is enjoyable or not. The following are necessary (but not sufficient) characteristics you need to have:

  • Enthusiasm for the research question (and not just the research topic)
  • Genuine desire to have people read your work
  • Ability to self-motivate
  • Swift communication

I will either provide you with detailed feedback on a full draft, or brief feedback on specific questions, but you should not expect me to provide multiple rounds of comments throughout the process. Depending on how many students I supervise in any given year, I intend to provide a similar amount of help to each and will be unable to devote significant time to your project close to the deadline. 

When planning the writing of the thesis take a look at:

This is also useful: Baylor University research planner guide. And Barry Weingast’s ‘Caltech Rules for Writing Papers‘.

If you get to present your work, here’s a good guide for creating a poster (and here). Don’t forget to include a clear plastic wallet with printed copies, and one for business cards.

Grading

Here is the way in which I judge academic articles and conference presentations. It contains information relating to research articles; theses; the use of data; and sociology challenges:

For more details on the grade ranges that I typically employ see page 7 of my guide for students, however you should adjust the passing grades such that what I deem to be a C grade for a thesis would get a mark of 55-60; a B is 70-80 and an A is 85+. These are only general guidelines and there’ll always be a gap between my judgement and your understanding of my judgment. But just because the grading is subjective does not make it arbitrary.

Finally, if you’re interested in a career in academic economics, here is advice on surviving grad school. And if you are a female student, do take a look at this “Women in Economics” video series.

Last updated: May 25th 2021

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