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2017 Syllabus

Econ 398 Short Syllabus Winter 2017

TuTh 11:50-1:15 pm EF 200

The syllabus, schedule, paper assignments, handouts and so on for the term will be on the course web site:

I will adjust the syllabus and schedule once I know the size of the class and potential Capstone topics for various class members. I’ve also just confirmed a couple outside speakers for other classes, and will try to work them in.

Core Goal

The core goal of the course is for you to write a major paper that lets you pull together things you’ve learned across the economics curriculum. While I will help you choose, my preference is that you find a topic that interests you sufficiently to turn out a good paper, rather than one I like. I do reserve the right to reject topics that I believe will not result in a good paper.

We do not have time for an empirical paper, unless you already have the beginnings of one. Hence what you will write is a survey paper of a given topic. That is most satisfying when there is a policy component.

You need to come up with a topic quickly, so in the first two weeks I’ll introduce you to a variety of reseources. We’ll spend part of class brainstorming, using those.

Course Theme

Alongside your paper we will explore a set of topics linked to US economic growth and technology. What that means will be more apparent after the first class.

For several of these papers I’ll ask for a memo. To work on writing I’ll also ask for a short paper due the end of the 2nd week of classes.

Data Presentations

One thing we’ll do is look at data on the US economy. Each of you will be asked to make one substantial presentation on a dataset. I will provide a list of data topics tied to releases in the days leading up to class. Tentatively we’ll do one each Thursday.


I ask all of you to blog this term. Please let me know if you have not yet signed up on the web site. I will do an initial post by Wednesday. Your first assignment will be to comment on that post.


None. We will however use many academic papers. I’ll generally provide links, some I’ll hand out in class.

Office Hours / Contacts

My office is Huntley 125B, next to the handicap ramp at the front of the building. However, I often prefer to meet with students at Lexington Coffee on Washington Street. On such days coffee is on me; I run a tab, let them know when you order. My cell is 540-460-6288 but please use sparingly, e.g., to let me know that I’m running late for an appointment.

In practice my schedule leaves me free until 11:15 TuTh and until 11:30 MWF. I can also be available late afternoons up until about 6 pm.


The paper will account for approximately 60% of your grade. The data presentation will be 15%, blogging 10%, and class participation (including memos and comments on blogs) another 15%.


Please contact me in private if you qualify for special accommodations. Note though there are no exams.