ECON311: Behavioral and Experimental Economics
As you saw on the syllabus, the second writing assignment will be submitted in stages,
including a draft, peer assessments, and the final version. The theme of this assignment
will be developing a research question and designing an experiment to investigate that
This set of instructions contains the overview of all of the stages of the project, which can
seem a bit daunting at first. Keep in mind that the project is broken into multiple phases,
so you only need to worry about one phase at a time. Of course, having a sense of where
it is headed and how you will ultimately be marked can be useful, so all phases are
described here. If we need to update the instructions or add more specifics during a
certain step, we will do so and repost these instructions.
Dates: Draft due April 18, Peer Assessments due April 25, Final copy due April 29.
Note: we will accept the final copy of your assignment late with no penalty through May
th. We will not accept assignments submitted after May 6th
2. Objectives of this Assignment:
The goal for this assignment is to think about how economic research moves forward –
identifying interesting questions, formulating a hypothesis, and designing an experiment
to gather data to answer that question.
The overall assignment is broken down into phases for several reasons. Perhaps most
importantly, this is how research and writing actually happen – every journal article we
have read this semester started as an idea that was then refined, and then went through
multiple rounds of writing and revision before becoming the finished product. This is an
important part of how things work, and the chance to revisit a draft to improve upon it is
a great way to refine your ideas and improve your writing. It also gives you a chance to
not only get some feedback (from us and from your classmates), but to see what other
students are thinking about, and provide them with some feedback as well. This is an
important evolution of the kind of critique we did in the first writing assignment: there
you critiqued a finished article, but now you have the chance to give feedback with the
specific goal of improving something during its development.
We will post the rubrics used to mark each of the stages of this assignment to the course
website. I would encourage you to check the rubrics to make sure you are meeting all of
the expected criteria! Particularly with the draft phase there is some flexibility in how
you structure your assignment, but there are some key elements that you will want to
demonstrate you have thought about, so be sure to compare your submission to the rubric
before you turn it in.
4. Structure and Details
The final version of this writing assignment will be a 1000-1250 word essay, which
amounts to roughly four to five pages, double-spaced. Before submitting the final
version, you will turn in a draft and participate in a peer review process.
Audience and tone: Your essay should be written as though your intended
audience is someone with a working knowledge of behavioral economics – you can
assume they are familiar with, for example, the content of this course. This is an
academic paper, which means that the tone is formal. This does not mean that it has to be
grandiose – you should avoid overstating your claims or making sweeping
generalizations. In academic writing, you do not want to make big claims that you
cannot support, or to be hyperbolic and overstate what you are doing. It is far better to be
accurate about what you attempting to do, so that your audience judges whether it
accomplishes that set of tasks, not the overstated version. Be precise in what you say and
make claims that you can support!
Content: The topic of your second writing assignment is an experimental
proposal. That means your primary tasks are to identify a research question, motivate
that question and provide some context, and describe the means by which you would
answer that question (i.e., the experiment you would conduct to test your hypothesis).
The subject of this can be anything within behavioral economics but will need to lead to
an experimental design. The final version of your assignment will need to:
Identify a research question you propose to answer with your experiment. For
this kind of task, more specific questions are usually better, as it is clearer what
they are asking, and how they ought to be tested. It is impossible to design a
compelling experiment for questions that are overly broad; if you are struggling to
think of how you could experimentally address the question you are considering,
perhaps you should considering narrowing your question down further. People
who really struggle to design an experiment to test their question usually have
either a research question that is too broad or not specific enough, and refining
your research question can go a long way towards focusing what needs to happen
in your experiment.
Provide some motivation for why this is an interesting question. The expectation
is not that your research question is necessarily the single most fascinating topic
ever to be discussed, but it should be clear why someone would be interested in
actually going through the effort to conduct experiments on it.
Provide some context through a discussion of the existing literature. While you
will not be required to do a comprehensive literature review on your topic due to
the time constraints, you will be expected to have a section in which you discuss
how your research question relates to what we already know. For this, you will
need to have at least three (3) papers that address what we already know related to
the topic. While this is not the main focus of this project, it is important to be able
to explain how your research question relates to the things we already know.
Describe the experiment you are proposing to help answer this question. This is
reasonably detailed description of your experiment. Your experiment should be
something that is possible, and preferably something that is feasible. For
example, assuming that we know subjects’ utility functions would not be possible.
You should be clear about what data your experiment will generate, and how you
would analyze it to answer your questions. The focus of this course is not on
statistical methods, so this does not have to be in extreme detail, but it should be
clear what the approach would be. For example, “comparing the mean of X
across the two treatments” is clear enough, whereas “record subjects’ opinions
about Y and look for trends” is not.
5. The Draft
The first stage of this assignment is the submission of a draft. As the name suggests, this
does not have to be a polished version of the eventual paper. However, you do need to
have made enough progress for someone to look at your idea and give you constructive
feedback on it. To that end, your draft should have a clear research question (it is okay if
this evolves before the final version), and motivation for why your audience should be
interested. You should describe at least two of your sources (so that your audience has
some context) and give at least a sketch of your experimental procedure. In short, while
it does not need to be a completed or polished paper, it needs to have the main elements
of the assignment, so that you can be given constructive feedback. Of course, the more
complete your draft is, the more your reviewers can give you helpful feedback. Before
you begin writing your draft, make sure to take a look at the rubric that we have posted
for it, so that you know what is expected of you before you get started.
6. Submitting the Draft:
The draft of your WA is due by April 18th at midnight. Because the next phase of your
assignment is to evaluate your peers’ drafts, we cannot accept late drafts, since we need to
make those drafts available to your classmates so they can evaluate them.
We will confirm this, but most likely you will need to submit your draft in two places on
Blackboard – one so that I can view and assess it per usual using the rubric (and check it
via SafeAssign), and one so that it can be shared with your classmates for peer
evaluation. If you wish, you do not need to put your name on the version that you
upload for the peer evaluation, so that it can receive feedback from your classmates
Note: you MUST submit your essay in both locations in order to earn credit for the draft
and participate in the peer assessment process (and earn credit for doing so). Failure to
upload your draft in either location will thusly result in a substantial loss of marks in your
grade. Upload both places!
7. Peer Assessments:
Peer Assessments will be due by April 25th at midnight.
The second phase in this assignment is the peer assessment phase. There are a few
objectives we have in mind with this phase. One is to give you the chance to see what
your classmates are thinking about for their papers, and to give you a chance to interact
with their ideas. Another is to give you the chance to assess work that is “in-progress” –
by now you’ve had a lot of practice thinking about internal and external validity for
papers that were already published – but because most of the work you come across is
finished and published, it has hopefully already addressed those IV and EV concerns.
Here is your chance to see some less-polished work, and think about how you could
modify it to improve it. And finally, it’s useful to get feedback on your ideas and writing,
so hopefully the suggestions from your classmates will help you put together your final
Be courteous in your assessments, and keep all criticism constructive.
The person whose draft you are reviewing is one of your classmates, and will see your
comments. Accordingly, you must be respectful in your comments, and keep your
criticism constructive. This does not mean that you cannot suggest that things be
changed or improved upon, but be mindful of your tone when you do so. Suggesting that
changing something would strengthen their argument is a very different thing from
simply saying their argument is bad or wrong.
If your feedback to your peers is rude or disrespectful, you will not receive
credit for that assessment.
Note: Like we mentioned previously, your marks for the “peer assessment” portion of
this essay are based on your assessments of other papers, not others’ assessment of your
paper. Therefore, nobody else’s comments directly influence your grades (although they
may have some good suggestions for your final draft), nor do you influence anyone else’s
grades directly (but maybe you can help them to improve). Your marks for this portion
of the assignment are based on whether or not you gave high-quality constructive
feedback to your peers. I hope (and expect) that this will not be a problem, but if your
feedback is inappropriate, you will not receive credit for that feedback.
8. Peer Assessments – what we expect from you:
Your task is to review each of two drafts with respect to the internal validity, external
validity, and clarity of the draft. In Blackboard you will be randomly assigned the drafts
of two of your peers. We may have to do a bit of troubleshooting on the technical side of
this, but your task is to provide them with feedback on four areas: internal validity,
external validity, clarity, and suggestions for improvement.
For each of these topics, you should provide a short response (at least 2-4 sentences, but
more if applicable), commenting on that aspect. As always, these can be positive
comments (it’s helpful to know what is working well!), or suggestions on how the draft
could be improved to the final version. Examples of things to help you think about useful
feedback would be:
Does the experiment described directly address the research question? If you saw
the data from this proposed experiment, would you be convinced that you had an
answer to the research question? (IV)
Is it clear how this experiment would relate to other environments of interest? Is
the question too narrow to be of interest to other environments? Can you think of
other applications of this research, or other environments you would be interested
in seeing it relate to? (EV)
Was the objective of the experiment and the design of the experiment clearly
explained? Do you think the author clearly communicated the idea they had in
mind to test, and how their experiment would answer that question? (Clarity)
If you were designing an experiment to answer the research question, what would
it look like? Do any of the features in this design seem like they could be
improved upon? Is there a more interesting framework in which that idea could
be tested, or a more precise way in which the research question could be
Of course, you do not have to answer these specific questions in your review, but if you
are not sure where to start off, they can be a guide of what to consider when giving your
assessment. Ultimately, the kind of feedback you can/should give depends a lot on the
state of the draft you are reading, so these are less of a requirement and more of a
9. The Final Copy
The final version of your essay is due by April 29th. Please upload the final version to
Blackboard as a .pdf.
Note: we will accept your essay late with no penalty through Friday, May 6th at
The final copy is the polished and improved version of your proposal. You should read
the comments that you have received and think carefully about how to integrate them into
the final version. You do not have to incorporate all of the changes that have been
suggested to you, but you should carefully consider whether they would strengthen your
paper or not. Here are a few things to keep in mind for your final copy:
The final copy should have an introduction and conclusion, and all aspects of the
final copy should be written in paragraph form (not bullet points, etc.). The
introduction/conclusion do not need to be elaborate, but they should introduce
your research question, and summarize your project, respectively.
The tone of your final copy should be professional. At this point, you have read
numerous journal articles and should have a sense of what that entails. If your
draft took a more informal tone, make sure to update the language to be
appropriate for the final version. The tone can be simple and direct but should not
If you didn’t already include your third source into your draft, be sure to include it
in your final version.
The language mechanics (structure, grammar, spelling, etc.) and organization are
increasingly important in the final draft. Now that you have invested all of this
time and thought into your project, it is crucial that you communicate it to your
10. Some suggestions:
If you aren’t sure where to begin, it is okay to use topics we have discussed in
class as your starting point. While it is great if you have a brand-new idea you
want to explore, many times research branches out and refines an initial question.
Think of a time that you had lingering questions about a topic from lecture, or one
of the papers you’ve read, or a Packback discussion, or how you might apply an
idea we discussed to a new environment. Questions or concerns about external
validity can be a good starting point for thinking about what would be an
interesting addition to our pool of knowledge.
Avoid doing what amounts to the same experiment with a different population.
For example, while the Mani et al experiment is great, simply repeating it with
farmers in a different country, or of a different crop, would not meaningfully add
to our pool of knowledge. The object of this assignment is to think about
expanding what we know about the world, so simply repeating an existing
experiment with tweaks to the subject pool is not what we are looking for here.
Google Scholar is a great resource for finding related literature. If you find a
paper that is interesting for your topic, then take a look at its references to see if
anything there seems important, or you can use the “Cited By” feature of Google
Scholar to search in the other direction (for papers that cite the paper you search –
effectively looking for work that was influenced by that paper).
In your essay, you must give appropriate credit to the sources of your ideas. This is an
essential element of any kind of academic writing, and the key to avoiding plagiarism.
Any time you make use of an idea that is not yours, you must give credit to the
original source of the idea. Failure to do so is plagiarism, which is an extremely
serious violation of the university’s academic integrity policy, and grounds for a
This applies whether you are directly quoting (using the exact wording of) or
indirectly quoting (rephrasing the ideas in your own words) – in either case, you
should cite the source to give appropriate credit.
If you do use a direct quote from another source, this must be made very clear by
using quotation marks (“”) to offset the sources words from your own. Anything
not in quotation marks is implied to be your own words.
At the end of your essay, you should include a list of all references you used, including
the works you referenced in your literature review, and any other sources you have used.
The suggested format for references and citations is the Chicago Manual of Style,
a commonly used format. However, if you are more comfortable with another
format that conveys the same information, that is also fine. As long as you
convey the appropriate information, the format choice is up to you. However, if
you do not already have a favorite citation format, Chicago is a good choice.
All references used in the paper should have an entry in the references section.
These should be listed alphabetically in the references section at the end of your
paper. The reference should include all of the relevant information (title,
author(s), journal title, date published, page numbers, URL, etc.).
The references part of your paper does not count towards/against your 1000 word