Department of Economics Senior Integrative Exercise ("COMPS")

Class of 2018 Dates and Procedures

Senior Economics majors in 2017-18 can satisfy the college requirement for an "Integrative Exercise" in their major either a) by writing a Primary Research Paper (modeled on primary research in economics and similar to academic papers read in the Advanced Topics Seminar) or b) by writing a Policy White Paper (modeled on government or think tank reports written by advocates for a particular solution to a policy problem). These options are usually not available to juniors. A waiver to this senior-only rule may be requested by juniors facing exceptional circumstances.

I. General Procedures

Because research requires a solid understanding of the existing literature, Comps Papers must flow from work done in the Advanced Seminar (Economics 395).  Seminars will be offered in Fall and Winter term of 2017-18.

A Research Prospectus proposing a primary research project will be a required assignment in every Advanced Seminar.  Students wishing to write a Primary Research Paper to complete the Integrative Exercise must submit the Prospectus to the instructor of the Seminar no later than the end of the seventh week of the term (see dates below).  The Prospectus will be evaluated by at least two faculty members in the Department and, by the end of 9th week, the student will be notified of its approval, conditional approval , or rejection as the basis of a Primary Research Paper (see dates below).

If the Prospectus is rejected, the student will not be allowed to elect the Primary Research Paper option and must write a Policy White Paper on the prescribed policy reform associated with the Advanced Seminar for which they registered. If the proposal is accepted, the student may choose either paper option.

All students will register for the three-credit Economics 400 in the term following their Advanced Seminar.  (Students who are on leave or on off-campus study that subsequent term must register for Economics 400 in the term they return to campus.)  Students opting to write a Primary Research Paper must additionally register for the six-credit Economics 398 Advanced Research in Economics.

Regardless of the type of paper written, in addition to meeting the guidelines below all students must present their research at the Department’s Spring term poster session.

II.  The Prospectus Guides

The following general guidelines are usually followed in preparing the Research Prospectus:

  • The Prospectus should be 3-5 pages in length.
  • The Prospectus should contain a preliminary statement of the hypotheses to be examined in the Primary Research Paper and the rationale for examining those questions making reference to relevant theoretical and empirical literature.
  • The Prospectus should contain an explanation of the general methods of testing the hypotheses, including variables to be used in the analysis, methodology, and data sources (including plans for obtaining the data).
  • The Prospectus should contain a bibliography.

III. Paper Guidelines

    1. The format of the Primary Research Paper should be modeled on primary research papers and will typically run between 25 and 40 pages in length.

    Typical sections of the Paper will include the following (though depending on the nature of the work, some of these sections may be combined):

    • Title
    • Abstract (100-150 words)
    • Introduction to the topic and summary of conclusions
    • Institutional context, if needed
    • Literature review (Include only literature relevant to the final Paper, not a comprehensive literature review covering everything published around the Paper’s general topic area.  The point is to motivate the research question, not to summarize works by others.  See examples in papers assigned for Advanced Seminars)
    • Presentation of the relevant theory
    • Research plan including model specification, sources of data, transformations of data, and definitions of variables such that readers could replicate the study
    • Empirical results including what those results imply about the Paper’s research question
    • Discussion of further areas of research and/or how the research might be improved if it were repeated.
    • Conclusions
    • Bibliography

    2.  The format of the Policy White Paper should be modeled on policy papers written by think tanks and government agencies, and will typically run between 15 and 20 pages in length.

    • Title
    • One-page executive summary drawing out the most important questions and conclusions in the White Paper
    • Definition and description of  the status quo to articulate the problem
    • Explanation of relevant theories and a guide to existing empirical evidence which supports or rejects that relevance/soundness of alternate theories
    • Policy alternatives
    • Argument for best choice which uses empirical evidence from the literature to support the case

    3.  Comps Papers are expected to be well-written. They should be clear, polished papers. Any Paper that does not meet this requirement will fail the exercise and be returned for revision per the process described below.

    IV.  Dates

    Please be careful to observe the specific procedures and deadlines described below.

    1. Prospectuses must be submitted in final form (two copies, typed, double-spaced with one-inch margins) to the Instructor of the Seminar no later than 5 p.m., October 27 (Fall Term ) and February 16 (Winter Term).
    2. Students will be notified of the acceptance, conditional acceptance, or rejection of their prospectuses by November 10 (Fall Term) and by March 2 (Winter Term).
    3. Students who have had their prospectuses approved have until the end of the add/drop period in the term they are registered for Economics 400 to notify the department that they would like to switch to the Policy White Paper option. This notification must come in writing to the Chair of the Department. Students not requesting this switch must successfully complete the Primary Research Paper.
    4. Papers must be submitted in hard copy (two copies, typed, double-spaced with one-inch margins) to the Comps Supervisor no later than 5 p.m., February 16 (Winter Term ) or May 11 (Spring Term ).
    5. An electronic copy of the Comps Paper must be submitted in final form to the Comps Supervisor and the Department’s Administrative Assistant (emailed as an MS-Word or pdf attachment) and to the Comps Archiving Coordinator for digital archiving in the Library (following the library’s procedures) no later than one week after the Papers are submitted i.e. by February 23 (Winter Term) and by May 18 (Spring Term). Students should also submit a digital file of the poster to the administrative assistant before the Comps Poster Session on May 24.
    6. All students are expected to create a poster (36" by 48") of their Comps research and participate in a Department Poster Session on Thursday, May 24 in Great Hall. Students must mount their poster on the bulletin board (in Great Hall at 3:30 pm) and be set up and READY by 4 p.m. The session is open to the community, parents and friends.  If you are on campus spring term, we expect you to create a poster and attend the poster session. This policy applies to all senior econ majors, whether you are writing a research comps or a white-paper comps.  Failure to prepare and present a poster can result in the failure of Comps. If you are off campus spring term (you graduate early, you are on an off-campus trip, and so forth), we would be delighted to have you come back and present a poster but you are not required to do so.  Nor do you have to ask a proxy to present your work. Questions should be directed to the Chair of the Department.
    7. Students will be notified of a grade of either Pass, Fail or Revise and Resubmit by March 2 (Winter Term) or May 25 (Spring Term). Students required to Revise and Resubmit their Papers have until the end of exam period of the term in which they submitted their original Papers to submit a revised Paper. Subsequent to resubmission the student will be notified of a Pass or Fail grade no later than a week after the Paper is received by the Department. Resubmitted Papers receiving a Fail grade may be subsequently revised no more than once per academic term beginning the following Fall term.  Thus, students receiving a Fail grade on resubmission will not complete the exercise in time for the graduation ceremony in Spring term.  The process of revision and resubmission will continue until the student achieves a passing level of work.
    8. No extensions will be given. Students who fail to submit the final Paper by the time and date of the deadline will fail the exercise and must submit to the Department Chair a written explanation for the delay and a request that the late Paper be considered for a passing grade under the Revise and Resubmission process described above.

    V.  Departmental Evaluation Process

    All comps Papers will be read by two Department members to determine whether the Paper meets a passing standard.  Papers under consideration for Distinction will be read by the full Department.  Distinction on the Paper requires excellence and creativity in the use of economic analysis and excellence in the exposition of that analysis. Distinct Policy White Papers will include an econometric analysis of some sort, even if only describing the association between two variables.



    10/27   5pm, Seminar Prospectuses due (Winter Term paper)

    11/10   Notification of acceptance of Prospectuses (Winter Term paper)

    2/16     5pm, Final Comps paper due (Winter Term paper)

    2/16     5pm, Seminar Prospectuses due (Spring Term paper)

    2/23     5pm, Electronic Comps files due (Winter Term paper)

    3/2       Notification of Pass/Fail on Comps Paper (Winter Term paper)

    3/2       Notification of acceptance of Prospectuses (Spring Term paper)

    5/11     5pm, Final Comps Paper due (Spring Term paper)

    5/18     5pm, Electronic Comps files due (Spring term paper)

    5/24     4-6 pm, Poster Presentation (Great Hall)

    5/25     Notification of Pass/Fail on Comps Paper (Spring Term paper)

    5/25     Notification of Distinction