History of Economic Thought
Research Paper Guidelines

Steve Gardner
Fall 2017

Basic Specifications

Write the paper at a level understandable by an "average" student in this class.
I would recommend for you to follow the Chicago Manual of Style, but any standard and consistent system of citation is acceptable. Just let me know what style manual you are using, and be sure that you are providing all of the information that would be needed to locate each of your sources. If you're working on many large research projects, you may want to try using Zotero or RefWorks, which are Baylor-supported online tools that help you to organize your sources and create proper footnotes and bibliographic entries according to several style manuals.
About 10 typewritten pages (12-point font, double spaced, 1-inch borders).
Turn in a topic statement (one paragraph) and a preliminary bibliography by
September 20. The finished paper is due November 27.


Believe it or not, many students have told me that preparing a term paper was one of their most rewarding experiences. If your paper is done properly, it should serve several purposes:
  • Application: You will have an opportunity to apply concepts learned in this course. You will apply the same tools of critical analysis to a topic that you find particularly interesting.
  • Focus:  You will gain in-depth knowledge of one subject. If you write your paper on, say, the history of exchange rate theory, you may become an authority on that particular subject.
  • Research:  You will gain additional experience performing library and on-line research. To find the most current and complete information on your topic, and to make a decent grade on your paper, you will need to consult a wide range of research sources.
  • Writing. When you leave Baylor, nearly any career or graduate program you pursue will involve writing  reports, memoranda, proposals, and so on. If you give your employer a report that is poorly researched, organized, and written, she/he will not be pleased--and neither will I. Several of my students have used their term papers as a sample of their writing when they have applied for jobs and graduate programs.  From time to time, a student paper will find an outlet for publication.


Several different kinds of topics are acceptable for your term paper. They include the following:
  1. One option is to write an historical survey of economic theories or philosophies on a particular topic. Topics that you may find interesting would include population growth, environmental protection, determination of wages (or rent or profits), effects of colonialism, arguments for protectionism, economics of education or health, philosophies of taxation, etc. These are only a few of the possibilities; choose a topic that is interesting to you. In this case, you might begin by exploring whether the topic was addressed by ancient authors (Bible, Greeks, Romans, etc.), and then you can move forward through time to review its treatment by classical economists (Adam Smith and his followers) and modern authors.
  2. Another option is to write a review of the economic ideas of some author who is NOT covered extensively in this course.  You could, for example survey the writings of Henry Thornton, who played an important role in the development of monetary theory, or you could select one of the prominent Austrian economists: Carl Menger, Ludwig Von Mises, or Friedrich von Hayek.  Again, select an author who is interesting to you.  In this case, you should read as extensively from primary sources (the author's own works) as possible, rather than relying heavily on secondary sources.
  3. Since most of this course is about economic thought in the Western world, you may want to write your paper about economics ideas in some other region. You could, for example, write a paper about the economic ideas that have been influential in East Asia (including, for example, ideas derived from Confucianism) or the Middle East (including, for example, economic concepts in the Koran).
  4. If you have an idea for some other kind of project that would apply the material covered in this course, come in during office hours and talk to me about it.

Writing Style

A mentioned previously, the basic form of the paper should conform to a standard and consistent manual of style.  Furthermore, please observe the following guidelines:

  1. To make the organization of your paper clear to the reader, provide an introductory paragraph that summarizes the outline of the paper, provide a clear statement of conclusions, make careful transitions between paragraphs in the body of the paper, and make effective use of subheadings.

  2. Avoid excessive use of direct quotations.  Generally, when you use information from one of your sources, you should rephrase it into your own words, and give proper credit to the original author.  By using your own words, you can maintain consistency of style and coherence of argument.  Use direct quotations only when there is something significant about the original wording .  For example, you may want to include an important quotation by a national leader (John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you ... ") or a witty statement by an author (John Maynard Keynes said, "In the long run, we are all dead").  

  3. There is nothing more boring than a paper that provides a long parade of facts without any interpretation.  Include your own analysis of the information, explaining its significance.  Again, be sure to include a clear statement of your own conclusions.

  4. In this course, you probably will not present a lot of statistical information in your paper.  As a general rule, however, you should use statistics only to illustrate or prove a point, not to make a point .  For example, you may make the general statement, "The standard of living has been declining in CountryX during the past decade."  Then you can use statistics (GDP per capita, infant mortality, etc.) to prove that point.  Do not provide a long list of statistics without explaining their significance.

  5. Read Elements of Style by William Strunk to find a wealth of other information on good writing, including maintenance of parallel structure, maintenance of active voice, and elimination of needless words.

  6. If you need additional help, remember that Baylor provides support through the Writing Centers for undergraduate and graduate students.


Your grade on the paper will depend on its satisfaction of the purposes listed above. In particular:
Relevance of topic and application of course concepts.
Documentation: Your information should be drawn from a large number and broad variety of sources.
Presentation: Your paper will be examined for the strength of its form, style, spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Plagiarism and Other Dishonorable Conduct

According to the Baylor Student Disciplinary Procedure , students found guilty of misconduct are subject to a range of sanctions, including expulsion from the university.  According to the Baylor University Honor Code , dishonorable conduct includes (among other items) the following:
  1. Offering for course credit as one's own work, in whole or in part, the work of another.
  2. Incorporating into one's work offered for course credit passages taken either word for word or in substance from a work of another, unless the student credits the original author and identifies the original author's work with quotation marks, footnotes, or another appropriate written explanation.
  3. Offering for course credit one's own work, but work that one has previously offered for course credit in another course, unless one secures permission to do so prior to submission from the instructor in whose course the work is being offered.
  4. Offering for course credit work prepared in collaboration with another, unless the student secures the instructor's permission in advance of submission. A student does not prepare work in collaboration with another if he or she merely discusses with another a matter relevant to the work in question.
For additional guidance on the definition of plagiarism, see the appropriate section of the section in the MLA manual .

As mentioned above, most of your paper should be written in your own words.  You should use direct quotations only when there is something significant about the wording that is used by your source.  Direct quotations must be enclosed in quotation marks or they must be indented and single spaced.  Otherwise, you should rephrase everything in your own words and maintain a consistent writing style.

Avoid the temptation to copy and paste large chunks of  material from the Internet.  Remember, if you find information on the Internet, I can find it again just as easily.
Information Sources 
Start Early 
If you will get started early enough in the semester, a few sources will be available that will not otherwise.  For example, you may be able to obtain some of the books and articles that are not available at Moody through Interlibrary Loan

Books usually are your best source for "the big picture" and background information.  However, but some of that information is usually out of date soon after the book is published.  That's why you need to supplement books with the other current sources that are given below. Your main bibliographic source for books in the Baylor Library is the BearCat search engine.  We have online access to the Handbooks in Economics Series.

These will provide more in-depth information, and will give you access to the latest research.  EconLit is the best bibliographic search engine for articles in advanced economics journals. Look here to find out whether Baylor has full-text online access to the particular journals you need. If we don't have immediate print or online access to a journal, you can obtain most other articles within a few days through Interlibrary Loan .
Online Resources
See Baylor's full list of online databases in economics here.