Research Methodology in Applied Economics

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ECOS3997
Final report:
writing tips
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Background to your consultant’s report.
– The Department of Primary Industries serves multiple stakeholders in the NNSW rural
area. The Department is concerned about the impact of climate change on agriculture
generally (drier, hotter and more variable climate) and in response is seeking
information on native grass production for the location of Narrabri. The Department
also liaises regularly with members of the Narrabri communities and is interested in
the broader socio–economic possibilities of native grass production. In particular,
interest has been generated in the potential for local indigenous engagement in the
value chains associated with production of seed from native grasses.
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Written report format (3000 words excluding references)
– Write a report for the Department of Primary Industries on the economic feasibility of
introducing native grass production to a farming system in Narrabri. The report will assess
whether:
– Production of native grasses is optimal economically
– What is the best technique for production (cool burning? pasture cropping?)
– Can this production be linked to a small local indigenous grass seed business
– Individual assignment – uses quantitative results from models built in tutorials
– 60% of final total mark; Online submission
– Suggested format:
– Introduction (background and problem statement, aim)
– Empirical Modelling
– Results
– Conclusion
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Final Report
• You will be assessed on:
• your ability to articulate your quantitative analysis with reference to economic
theory and your empirical evidence in the applied context of the representative
farm in Narrabri NSW.
• on your written communication.
You will not be able to write this the night before submission – good writing is a skill –
takes time and practice.
Leave yourself time to re-edit the document a few times.
A rubric for this assignment has been posted on Canvas.
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Rubric: Written Report
Assessment Against Criteria Weighting
(/100)
Clear and coherent exposition of
background to focus issues/management
problem is framed in terms of core
economic concepts and principles.
HD D C P F 20
Analysis of empirical results is framed
and justified in terms of core economic
concepts and principles.Error free.
HD D C P F 40
Writing: appropriate style, free of spelling
and grammatical errors. HD D C P F 40
Quality and relevance of references excellent satisfactory unsatisfactory 2.5
Correct and consistent referencing
no errors
a few minor
errors
major errors or omitted
altogether 5
Clear and appropriate formatting of brief
no errors
a few minor
errors
major errors or omitted
altogether 2.5
HD=85+; D=75-84; CR= 65-74; P=50-64; F=0-49
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Goal of writing (Source: Ethridge (2004)) Ethics in research (Randall(2011))
• You, as author (applied economist)
• What is the goal of writing? To convey information.
• “Good” writing is writing that serves its intended purpose.
• Who is your audience?
• What are the information and knowledge needs of the audience?
• What is the level of technical expertise/knowledge of the intended
audience?
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You as the author (applied economist) – what is your aim?
• Need to put in the effort to write a good consultant’s report. Display your
professional integrity.
• The professionalism evident in your report will convince your readers that you are
a reliable and skilful applied economic consultant.
• Recall the LO of the unit: to develop “an understanding of the nature and
implications of assumptions and value judgments involved in interdisciplinary
research.” Your empirical work is based on assumptions.
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Your audience: DPI – ministerial staff – technocrats, who are not
skilled in linear programming, but have some knowledge of
farming/agriculture and social issues – indigenous involvement in
native seed value chain. You will be communicating economic
concepts to a non-economics audience.
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– Your consultant’s report should be quite formal, and it will
contain a significant amount of linear program modelling.
– Your report should stay focused on the topic.
– You will also frame the report by a clear introduction and
discussion in order to make your stance clear.
– Take care with presentation and formatting
– Don’t cut and paste output from Excel, construct your own tables
You are writing a consultant’s report, so:
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Importance of writing (Source: Ethridge (2004))
– Writing is a skill you can learn how to write well.
– Writing is also a process which involves rewriting – many edits.
– Technical writing not an easy task- the subject matter requires the writer to be
exact (for “scientific” writing, others should be able to replicate your work).
– Need to be able to communicate well enough to be understood without any
ambiguity: good writing is evidence of good thinking.
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Writing as part of the research process (Source: Ethridge (2004))
– Writing makes results accessible to others.
– Writing can be thought of as part of the research process:
– That is, the process of developing effective written communication makes
the writer clarify and refine thoughts and place them in logical order.
– Writing can play different roles in different stages of the research e.g.
writing in early stages research thinking.
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Writing tips and guidelines (Source: Ethridge(2004))
– Good idea to imagine yourself in the reader’s position and re-read each
sentence and ask yourself if it conveys the meaning that you intend.
– Another reliable guideline is to organise what you have to say in logical order.
– Try to generate a logical ordering of presentation of thoughts, ideas,
information/results, that is clear, direct and concise.
– Use sub-headings – they help to control structure and remind you what material should
be in each part.
– Such an ordering directs the reader’s thinking and comprehension.
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– Achieving a logical order requires an outline
– outlines are a tool to organise the flow
– main points, sub-points, linking points etc.
– So, it is helpful to construct a written outline.
– While editing, ask yourself if the flow of subheadings is logical and presents the
academic “story”.
– Apart from using subheadings, to organise the report, make sure there are written
linkages between ideas/sections e.g. at the end of the introduction section indicate
how the paper is organised.
Structure
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Writing tips and guidelines (Source: Ethridge(2004))
– Apart from structure, communication of logical order of thought
can also be promoted by:
– Simplicity- simple direct statements.
– Precision (lack of ambiguity in writing) in language..
– Avoid unnecessary qualifiers, jargon, clichés and platitudes.
– Avoid advocacy and judgmental words and phrases – keep the tone as impartial as
possible.
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– Concise and precise use of words promotes clarity.
– Make sure you write in a way that is unambiguous.
– It will help you if you keep an eye on paragraph and sentences
structure so that your meaning can be followed clearly.
– Sentences should express precisely what you want intend.
Write in a concise and precise way
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– Economic terminology or jargon is specific to the field of economics.
– Use of jargon may be inappropriate (depending on context readers may dismiss what
you write if they don’t understand it).
– You can assume that the Dept. Primary Industry staff are unfamiliar with linear
programming (hence do not use term like shadow price, technical coefficient, etc.)
– Ensure that if you use jargon, it is defined and used accurately.
– OK to assume your readers understand what revenue, costs, profits mean.
Jargon (specialist terminology)
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– Whatever opinion/advice is put forward should employ evidence-based reasoning
– Support your claims with evidence from scholarly sources (reference within the body of
the text) e.g. “production of native grasses is for important for ecological purposes
(Reseigh et al. 2008)”
– Support your claims with your empirical analysis.
– Aim for an objective stance supported by logical argument.
Throughout – use evidence-based reasoning
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Adopt a formal tone.
Avoid where possible referring to yourself.
Take care with choice of words and punctuation.
Academic writing style
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Academic style – grammar (Source: Godden)
– Write in sentences. The minimal requirement for a sentence is a subject and a verb not starting with a
conjunction (and, since, as etc.).
– Don’t make sentences too long, as they easily become convoluted and you will lose the thread of your
argument.
– Usually a sentence will also have a predicate, and perhaps subordinate clauses.
– Note: a present participle (e.g. being, having, doing) by itself does not constitute a complete verb. A
present participle needs an auxiliary verb (e.g. is being, is having) to comprise a complete verb.
Alternatively, replace the participle with a simple form of the verb (e.g. replace “being” with “is”).
Participles can, of course, introduce phrases (e.g. “Being afraid of the dark, John is …”).

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More tips (Source: Ethridge (2004))
– Avoid judgmental words “should, good, bad” – beware
adjectives like “unfortunately” in descriptive phrases.
– Avoid unnecessary digressions.
– Set aside your writing, then re-evaluate after some time.
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Avoid non sequiturs (Source: Godden)
– Avoid non sequiturs: a non sequitur means that the conclusion or inference doesn’t
follow from the preceding argument.
– A non sequitur is “an inference or a conclusion which does not follow from the
premises” (Macquarie Dictionary, Revised Edition, 1985).
– Blatant example: “When it’s hot, I pass my neighbour cleaning her car. She must only
clean her car when it is hot.
– Many non sequiturs less blatant.
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Don’t use random capital letters
– Use capital letters properly and consistently. If you are unsure, find out – don’t use
capital letters inconsistently hoping the reader will decide.
– Capital letters are used for the first letter of sentences.
– Capital letters are used for proper nouns.
– Capitalise the names of people, titles, specific places, and some abbreviations.
– For example: Australia, Professor Colm Harmon, the cattle industry.
– Sentences end with a full stop ( “.”).
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Apostrophes (Godden(2008))
– You need to be able to distinguish plurals and possessives, and contractions:
– e.g. “the policy is good”;
– “the policies are good”;
– “the policy’s main objective” (=the main objective of the policy);
– “the policies’ main objective” (=the main objective of the policies);
– “the policies’ main objectives” (=the main objectives of the policies);
– “the policy’s a good one” (= the policy is a good one);
– also “its colour” (=the colour of it) and “it’s coloured” (=it is coloured)
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Literary abominations (Godden(2008))
– “Avoid literary abominations
– especially “as such” (can mean “therefore”, “particularly” …),
– “of” instead of “have”, as in “I might of gone to the lecture”,
– the Americanism “off of” (as in: Eve took the apple off of the serpent).
– Non-economists often use the ugly term “cost-benefits”; be an economist and prefer
the term “net benefits”.
– A lazy way of turning a verb into a noun is to add “ment” to the end of it; but there
are usually better alternatives—e.g. use “abolition” instead of the clumsy
“abolishment”.
– Use “centred on” rather than “centred around”.
– Avoid forms like “is dependent upon” – use “depends on”.”
– dependent (adjective) and dependant (noun) (e.g. the dependent variable, a
dependant depends on someone else for something);
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More abominations
– “Be able to use the following correctly:
– there/their;
– labour (people who work) vs. Labor (as in Australian Labor Party, but note the British Labour
Party);
– principal and principle;
– “heavy” relates to weight/mass, whatever its current colloquial meaning (e.g. correct use as
in “Kim Beazley is heavy”);
– 1970s, not “70s”; don’t use ampersand (&) except where correct – e.g. “Allen & Unwin”, “John
Wiley & Son”;
– government/party/opposition are singular nouns and take the singular form of a verb (i.e.
“the government is …”) unless you want to indicate disunity (e.g. “the NSW State Liberal Party
are again agonising over a leadership challenge”);

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More abominations
– use “effect, effects, effecting” and “affect, affects, affecting” properly;
– “estimate”, “calculate” and “predict” have different meanings;
– don’t use abbreviations like “Aust.”, “govt”;
– don’t compound words (correct form in parentheses) such as “inturn” (in turn),
“aswell” (as well), “alot” (a lot), “thankyou” (thank you).

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More abominations
– Variables and parameters. “Variables” take on a variety of values and are related by functions
such as supply and demand curves (e.g. variables may be “size of output”, “output price”, “level
of exports”).
– A “parameter” is a variable which has a given value in a particular case, and parameters may
be the constants in functions or attach to variables (e.g. parameters may be “elasticities” or
“slopes” of supply and demand curves, “probability of success of research”, “level of adoption
of new technology”). The effects of different values of parameters can be considered: e.g.
different demand curve elasticities.
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More abominations
– Don’t begin a sentence with “This is …” or “That is …” when it is unclear as to what
“This” or “That” refers.
– Avoid anthropomorphisms such as “This essay will discuss …” wherever possible. (Use
a dictionary to discover the meaning of “anthropomorphism/anthropomorphic” if
necessary.)
– “Collective noun” – identifies a group, team, committee etc. In general, collective nouns
use singular forms of verbs etc. For example, “the team is (not “are”)”, “the
committee’s decision (not “committee’s decisions”)”; unless the group is effectively
acting as individuals: “the committee are irrevocably split”

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Gender (Godden (2008))
– Unless specifically referring to someone of known gender (e.g.
“Barry Humphries … he”), write in a gender-neutral way – e.g. use
gender-neutral plural forms such as “the farmers … they” rather
than “the farmer … he”.
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Verb tense
– When to use present, pastor future tense can be confusing-in general be wary of future tense
except when writing proposals.
– Preferences vary between present and past for reports-most reliable rule of thumb is to
determine the preference of the targeted audience.
– Don’t shift verb tense within a major section of report.
– Switching between sections may be warranted.
– Personal pronoun form: In technical writing the rule is to use 3rd person (e.g. he she it they) not in
first or second person (I, you).
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Data and figures (Godden (2008))
– When presenting tabulated data and figures: give title, and source where
appropriate.
– For tabulated data, use an appropriate number of decimal places and/or
significant digits and generally right-align columns of data (so that data can
be easily scanned by column).
– Don’t include these items if you don’t refer to them.
– All need sensible titles.
– All units should be specified.
– Should be able to read them on stand alone basis.
– All columns and axes should be clearly labelled.
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Referencing
– Why use references? to acknowledge the intellectual provenance of
material/arguments (see comments on plagiarism below), but you can still
make your own arguments using others’ ideas by paraphrasing (but still
properly referenced); don’t use slabs of quotes, as (long) quotes are not a
satisfactory substitute for your own argument (long quotes don’t demonstrate
you understand the argument).
– . plagiarism: “the appropriation or imitation of another’s ideas and manner of
expressing them … to be passed off as one’s own” (Macquarie Dictionary,
Revised Edition, 1985)

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References and referencing
Use the APA 6th referencing style.
Guide available at:
https://libguides.library.usyd.edu.au/c.php?g=508212&p=3476096
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Referencing: assertions/statements of fact
– Written assertions/statements of fact need references to support their
truth/validity.
– Example: National sentiment towards inbound FDI is sometimes unfavourable
(Jones, 1992; Shears, 2005).
– Use references also to indicate source of others’ arguments and short quotations
(avoid long quotations—paraphrase instead, appropriately referenced).
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Referencing
– “When quoting the views of an author whose works you have not read, don’t use
Harvard referencing in a way that implies you have read the original work—e.g.
“Smith (1962)”. Use forms such as “Smith (as quoted in Jones 1981, p.34)”.
– In the case where you quote from an edited work cite the author not the editors.
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Referencing
– Use referencing system properly (e.g. if at end of sentence, full
stop after reference not at end of quoted text).
– Example:
– National sentiment towards inbound FDI is sometimes unfavourable (Jones, 1992; Shears,
2005). correct
– National sentiment towards inbound FDI is sometimes unfavourable. (Jones, 1992; Shears,
2005). incorrect
– Construct your bibliography properly.
– Don’t include references in the bibliography that are not referred to in the text.
The University of Sydney Page 37
Finding and evaluating reference material (Godden (2008))
How do we assess the (likely) quality of material—even before we access it?
– 1. Type of publication
– “Books (or “monographs”): these may take several years to write, and probably at least a year
to publish, and so the material may be somewhat dated even when the book is first released; this
may be especially true in second editions. The humanities publish much original research in
books, but these tend to be less used in the social sciences for publishing original research. In the
latter, books are often textbooks or compendiums of “state-of-the-art” essays on economic
theory. May not be closely peer-refereed”.
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Finding and evaluating reference material (Godden (2008))
– journals (or “serials”): used in the social sciences to publish original research. In
economics, journal articles may be theoretical or empirical. Relevance of both depends
on the nature of the search. Most journals referee submissions for quality control.
– In the more prestigious journals, it may take several years for an article to be
refereed, revised and finally published; many published journal articles carry the date
on which they were submitted for consideration, and then accepted for publication.
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Finding and evaluating reference material (Godden (2008))
– “Reports: often used by government or lobby groups to investigate particular issues. Government
often commissions a group of “eminent persons” to undertake a review leading to a report;
reports were traditionally written by public servants but now increasingly written by consultants.
Also reports by various parliamentary committees. Various government bodies publish regular
reports of various kinds (e.g. ABARE, Auditor-General, Productivity Commission). Quality likely to
be highly variable (little peer-reviewed) and, especially with lobby groups, reports may be
intentionally biased. Reports often appear on the Internet before they are published in print,
often with useful (and sometimes not useful) commentary—e.g. parliamentary papers such as the
Budget Papers which are made available when tabled”.
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Finding and evaluating reference material (Godden (2008))
– “Newspapers, magazines and other ephemera: articles written by journalists
who do not necessarily have any formal training in the topics they report.
Generally produced to tight deadlines (especially newspapers) and quality
control may be low except in easily-verified cases of facts (and, often, not
even then). Often newspaper articles closely report media releases of
government and interest groups (such as business, trade associations and
trade unions)”.
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Finding and evaluating reference material (Godden (2008))
– 2.Evaluating material ex ante. Suppose you have found reference(s) relating to a particular topic.
Should you take the time to obtain and read this material? This is an economic decision problem (there
are costs and benefits, even if the major cost is time) under uncertainty (you don’t know exactly what’s
in the material). A few suggestions:
– who wrote the material and why?—do you need material from this source? why?
– what type of material is it?—political, interest group, detailed investigation, economics (theory or
empirical), other relevant material? —do you need this type of material? why?
– what is the likely quality of this material?—ranging from peer-reviewed to dashed-off to rantings
and ravings. do you need this type of material? why?
– how large is the item?—book or large report ranging to newspaper article. Is size a likely
indicator of quality? Is this item likely to contain relevant material?
– 3. And what you do read, critically evaluate …



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Document review (Godden(2008))
– Do a final, thorough check on the essay for spelling mistakes, inappropriate words,
grammatical errors, typos etc.
– “Word processing: there is no excuse for typographical errors (use a spelling
checker—BUT spelling checkers won’t pick up the wrong word typed correctly (e.g.
“form” typed instead of “from”) nor sentences that don’t make sense (read through
hardcopy). Take particular care when using a word processor’s thesaurus that you
know the meanings of words that it suggests”.
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References
– Ethridge, D. (2004) Research Methodology in Applied Economics 2nd Edn Blackwell.
– Godden, D. (2008) Literary Abominations and Other Crimes. Unpublished monograph.
– Randall, A. (2011) Ethics. Lecture Notes in Research Methods.

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