ECON 2500W Writing in Economics

ECON2500 Writing in Economics

About the Course

ECON 2500 is a one-credit “W” course. It fulfills the University’s “W” requirement for undergraduate general education and, for economics majors, the writing-in-the-major “W” requirement. Although the course is one credit rather than the more typical three, it still must — and will — fulfill the University requirements for a “W” course: a paper of at least 15 pages in length, revised multiple times after feedback from the instructor and others (including, in our case, peer feedback and, if you choose, feedback from the UConn Writing Center). The paper should display a clear and engaging writing style, demonstrate a command of standard written American English, and reflect the standards of research, citation, argument, and data presentation appropriate to an academic audience.

The course involves two meeting components: (1) a large lecture that will meet most (but not all) Mondays from 1:00 to 1:50 in room 115 Arjona and (2) a small breakout section. The main lecture will talk about the process of researching and writing, and will include presentations from the UConn Libraries and the UConn Writing Center. The breakout sessions are where you will do most of the hands-on work. Your section instructor will work with you to develop a topic, will provide feedback along the way, and will ultimately grade your efforts.

You can write on any economics-related topic you like (with the approval of your section instructor). One possibility would be to write about a topic you are studying in another economics course this semester. But if that other economics course requires a paper, you cannot submit the paper to both courses without the explicit consent of both instructors. As always, turning in a paper you wrote for some class in the past would constitute academic misconduct unless explicitly approved by the instructor. If you are at a loss for a topic, consider turning to a book like Frank Bonello and Isobel Lobo, Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Economic Issues (McGraw Hill, 15th edition, 2012), which discusses controversial economic issues. You could then take a position on one of the issues and support your thesis with research. (As we will discuss early in the semester, all good writing revolves around a thesis — all good writing is an argument.) Your section instructor will also be a valuable resource in picking a topic.

Schedule of assignments

Week Assignment due Comments
September 10 Proposal One or two pages, with preliminary thesis and some references.
September 24 Draft list of sources All sources properly formatted.
October 15 First draft due Must include in-text citations and list of references, but may not yet be full length or include all evidence.
November 5 Second draft due Must include in-text citations and list of references. Must be full length and must address comments on first draft.
November 5 In-class peer review Provide comments to and receive comments from another student.
December 14 Final version Must include complete bibliography and proper in-text citation..

Note: your assignment is always due at the meeting of the discussion section to which you are assigned.


Your final paper will count for the bulk of your grade — 55 per cent. But to create proper incentives, we will also grade you on your drafts along the way. Your proposal and draft list of sources will be worth five per cent of your grade each; your first draft 10 per cent; and your second draft 20 per cent. In addition, we will have an in-class peer-review exercise that will count another five per cent of your grade. On the day you turn in your second draft, bring an extra copy (without your name on it) to class. Your section instructor will then scramble the papers, giving you someone else’s paper and giving your paper to someone else. You will be graded on the care and thoughtfulness with which you comment on your peer’s paper (not on what a peer says about your paper). Here are some tips for a good peer review.
You may revise the drafts and resubmit them for additional comments, but your grade will not change; that is, your grade for each draft will be based on the first submission. We reserve the right to lower your grade in any assignment that you submit after the deadline — the later the submission, the lower the grade.
How will you be graded? The rubric below gives a more formal answer to that question. But here basically is what we are looking for.

  • Researching the topic: Did you find and master relevant scholarly reference materials? We will talk in class about what “scholarly” means. Briefly: it means professional books and journal articles. I recommend Google Scholar as a good starting point. We will learn about other sources in class. “Scholarly” specifically excludes the kind of unmonitored websites that turn up in ordinary web searches. “Joe’s website about economics” is not a scholarly source, even if Joe is a professor of economics somewhere. You get precisely one Wikipedia citation for the entire paper.
  • Documentation and Citation: Did you document and cite all sources appropriately? You are responsible for providing proper citation for all direct quotations, paraphrased ideas, and statistical and other information coming from other sources. (Note that you have to cite an idea even if you paraphrase it rather than quote an author directly; and, in general, you ought to paraphrase not quote.) Make sure to include at the end of each paper a list of works cited. You must format properly both your in-text citations and list of works cited. We will talk about this in class. A good resource to start is the UConn Library’s guide on citing sources.
  • Argument: Is there a central idea, a thesis that you sustain consistently throughout the paper? How clear, sophisticated, and original is the idea? Does it convey a clear knowledge of the material and a recognition of alternative perspectives?
  • Support: How well do you support your argument? Are your sources clearly and consistently relevant to the thesis? Do you use examples, quotations, statistical and other information skillfully to support the argument(s)?
  • Organization: Is the paper well-organized? Make sure that your objective is clear at the beginning, that each section has a clear role in meeting the objective, and that ideas flow logically from one paragraph or section to the next.
  • Paragraphs: Are the paragraphs coherent and well-organized? Is there one clear idea per paragraph, introduced by a clear topic sentence and developed consistently by other well-connected sentences?
  • Sentences: Are the sentences efficient and well-constructed? Work on constructing clear, concise sentences by avoiding words and phrases that do not fit well. Use vague pronouns and passive voice only when absolutely necessary.
  • Mechanics: Are the mechanical elements of writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.) free of errors? Using your word processor to check spelling and grammar before printing the paper can go a long way. But be careful: your word processor does not know if you meant “there” or “their.” In the end, there is no substitute for human proofreading.

Grading Rubric

The rubric below names and describes some key traits of academic texts. In practice, the five traits are interrelated; still, compared to traditional grades, this sorting by traits can offer a more calibrated measure of strengths and weaknesses. A grade of 3 is average and is equivalent to a score of 80 out of 100 (5=100, 4=90, 3=80, 2=70, 1=60, 0=0). Please note that if an essay receives a 0.0 in any of the 5 categories, it cannot pass.

5 points 4 points. 3 points 1 or 2 points 0 points
Purpose,Relevance &Focus The text grapples with an issue ripe for analysis or debate and responds with insight. The writer clearly understands the assignment, demonstrates a sure grasp of the readings and contextual issues in play, and makes a perceptive contribution to the intellectual conversation on the matter. Exceptional essays reveal a creative and critical mind at work; they move readers from the known to the new; they often take risks. The text voices a thoughtful response to the assignment, going beyond standard expectations. The writer motivates readers to care about the issues at hand and asserts a focused, relevant, and convincing claim. The text responds competently to the assignment, making a viable claim. The writer has something at stake and shows some promising analytical, interpretive, and rhetorical sensibilities. The text responds adequately to the assignment and advances a reasonable but unambitious claim. The thesis may be limited, muddy or scattered, but the purpose and relevance of the piece are still discernable. The text may be inappropriate to the assignment, reveal scant understanding of readings and contextual issues, or seem adrift. The central claim may be too obvious or too odd to motivate the intended audience to care about it.
Development The writer marshals complete and compelling evidence to support claims and amplify key points. The text uses primary texts, reliable secondary sources, relevant data, and telling details as appropriate to the nature and scope of the assignment. The writer creates common ground with the audience and anticipates alternate perspectives and counterarguments. The writer selects and deploys evidence convincingly. The supporting details deepen the argument or narrative, drawing in readers. The text builds momentum; readers nod in affirmation as they move through the essay. The writer includes enough evidence to make a competent case. The text moves reasonably well between generalities and particulars. When required, sources cited are reliable and appropriate. The quality and quantity of support is adequate, but at times runs thin. The essay needs more flesh on the bones. Some evidence may be incomplete, stretched or suspect. The text may be either too skimpy or too bloated. Evidence may be missing, incomplete, inappropriate or unreliable. Claims and supporting material may be mismatched.
Arrangement The arrangement complements the purpose and development of the piece. The writer shepherds readers through the text by making the organization evident, delivering information as needed, and clearly signaling sources, turns and transitions. The writer employs structural conventions appropriate to the assigned genre but innovates as needed. The arrangement is thoughtful and logical. The writer respects conventions appropriate to the genre and supplies helpful cues for navigating the text (intro, forecasting, transitions, signal phrases for sources, etc.). Readers never feel lost. The structure fits the assignment and purpose reasonably well. The arrangement is typical for the genre but doesn’t go out of its way to help readers. Structure is discernible but only marginally effective. The reader’s needs are not taken into consideration. The line of development may wander too much; readers may feel temporarily lost or confused. The organization is haphazard, showing a disregard for logic or convention. The arrangement reveals scant consideration for the needs of readers.
Style The prose strikes readers as effective and eloquent. Sentence structures are complex and varied; the rhythm is paced; transitions are fluid; the sounds resonate. The writer adopts an audienceappropriate stance while projecting a distinctive voice. The prose is controlled and economical, featuring purposeful transitions and some vibrant passages. The writer shows versatility. The prose is generally controlled. Sentences and paragraphs cohere; the transitions are serviceable; the diction is audience appropriate. The prose is readable but may be flat, repetitive, choppy, wordy, or bureaucratic. Some passages may strike the audience as irksome. The style alienates the writer from the audience. Sentences may be so tangled that they obscure understanding.
Editing &Conventions The writer seamlessly employs effective strategies for grammar, syntax, usage, word choice, and attribution of sources. The editing is calibrated to the intended audience and complements the purpose, meaning and style of the text. Surface features and conventions meet audience expectations. Text is edited fairly cleanly but may include a few minor lapses, typos, awkward patches, or inconsistencies. Text is reasonably well edited but features some distracting errors (odd phrasing, flawed punctuation, faulty parallelism, dangling modifiers, etc.). Text is readable but reveals a few serious problems (fragments, runons, lack of subjectverb agreement, etc.) or frequent minor errors. Nonstandard source documentation may prevail. More than 3 or 4 serious problemsor a constellation of minor errorsemerge on each page. Surface problems impede comprehension or frustrate readers. Source attribution may be missing or seriously flawed.

Modified slightly from the rubric of Prof. Tom Deans, Director of the UConn Writing Center, version of 4/2006

Course Grading Summary



Draft list of sources


First draft


Second draft


Peer review


Final draft


Writing and Citation Resources.

I have asked the Co-op to order this book:.

Economical Writing by Deirdre McCloskey Economical Writing
by Deirdre McCloskey
Waveland Press, 2nd edition, 1999.

My own Notes on Writing cover the basics, including the theory and mechanics of scholarly citation. You may also benefit by consulting the UConn Writing Center. Here are some resources from the UConn Libraries. And here are even more resources on writing.


The UConn student conduct code defines plagiarism as “presenting as one’s own the ideas or words of another for academic evaluation.” Please read these carefully. If you’re not sure how to recognize and avoid plagiarism, click here or here.

I take plagiarism seriously. If you have questions or concerns, please ask me.

Updated: 10/03/2012