ECON 4290/8296; MIB 8210


Research Methods in Economics and Business




Fall 1999


(last updated: October 13, 1999)


Arthur Diamond

Office: CBA 512E

Office Phone: 554-3657

Office Hours: Mon. 1:15-2:15 pm; Weds. 4:30-5.55 pm; and by appointment.

Internet address:

World Wide Web home page:






Course Objectives:

Through lectures, readings, and hands-on experience, the student will learn the fundamental methodology of research in economics and business, including how to pick a promising research topic, how to conduct a thorough literature search, how to gather and present data, how to perform basic analysis of the data using statistical packages, and how to clearly write-up the results. (Special attention will be paid to the growing role of the World Wide Web in all aspects of research.) The student will be required to submit a research project that exhibits many of the skills listed above. These skills will help better prepare the student, both to excel in future academic work, but also to excel as a "knowledge worker" and "knowledge manager" in the economy of the future (see Bill Gates, Business @ the Speed of Thought).



Teaching Methodology:

The course will rely heavily on lecture and demonstrations by the professor. Reading assignments will provide background for many of the course topics. Many class sessions will be spent in one of the computer teaching rooms so that the students can learn instructor-supervised, hands-on lessons about the software applications and the World Wide Web.


Student Role in Class:

Students are expected to read the assigned readings and to be attentive to lectures. They will be expected to practice the research skills in the library and on the computers. In particular, they will be expected to learn how to perform a thorough literature search, download data, represent the data in graphs and descriptive statistics, and estimate basic regressions with the data. Students will improve their presentation skills through presentations on their paper topics. The student will also be expected to improve her writing skills through the submission of a research paper.


Course Requirements and Grading:

Course grades will depend on how many of 300 possible points the student receives. In particular, points will be earned by the following:

*Getting presentation topic in on time (6 points)

*Getting data collected by deadline (6 points)

*A 10 minute class presentation (20 points)

*Attendance (2 points a class, for a total of 28)

*A preliminary three page research proposal (20 points)

*Submission of a home page that incorporates a one-page resume (10 points)

*A 13-18 page research paper (130 points) that involves both a literature search and data analysis

*A final exam (80 points).

The 10 minute presentation will be on the studentís paper topic. The paper should be 13-18 pages of double-spaced, typewritten text (not including any footnotes and references).



The grading scale for the course will be:


Underg. Points

Underg. %

Grad. points

Grad %










































less than 54

less than 18

less than 84

less than 28


Point Deductions for Late Paper:

For the paper assignment, 5 points will be deducted for the first day late and 1 point will be deducted for each additional day late.


Exams will be attentively monitored. The result of academic dishonesty will be a grade of F for the course.

Course Grade Reporting:

In a memo dated January 21, 1991, Vice Chancellor Otto Bauer advised faculty that posting grades may be a violation of the "Privacy Rights of Parents and Students Act" of 1974. Grades will not be posted. A student who needs early reporting of the course grade may obtain the grade through BRUNO or on the Registrarís World Wide Web home page



SAS Institute Inc. Selected SAS Documentation: Economics Graduate Program (First Edition, Volumes 1 & 2). Cary, NC: SAS Institute Inc., 1999.

Wyrick, Thomas L. The Economist's Handbook: A Research and Writing Guide. St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing Co., 1994.

Highly Recommended (but Optional) Text:

White, Kenneth J. Shazam Userís Reference Manual, Version 8.0. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1997.

Other Required Readings:

Friedman, Milton. "The Methodology of Positive Economics." In Essays in Positive Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953, pp. 3-43.

Jantz, Richard. "The Art of Persuasion." PC World (Oct. 1990): 259-260.

Kritzman, Mark. "What Practitioners Need to Know About Regressions." Financial Analysts Journal 47, no. 3 (May-June 1991): 12-15.

Lincoln, Douglas J. and Nina Ray. "Conducting Your Won Survey Research---Dos and Doníts." NBDC Report no. 86 (Jan. 1988): 1-4.

McCloskey, Donald. "Economical Writing." Economic Inquiry 23 (April 1985): 187-222.

Passell, Peter. "Wine Equation Puts Some Noses Out of Joint." New York Times (March 4, 1990): 1 & 17.

Tufte, Edward R. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press, 1983, pp. 13-15, 53-54, 93-96, 107-110.


PC Disks:

Each student will need several blank 3 and a half inch high density, formatted, IBM-compatible disks to use for the class. Each class session the student should have with them at least a couple of blank disks. Programs, examples and data sometimes will be copied to these disks in a session, that will be used in later sessions, or in the studentís own projects. These disks are often offered at very low prices (after rebate), at stores such as Office Max, Office Depot, and CompUSA. (Recently, the common offer has been for 50 disks for 99 cents, after rebate---you can find out about these sales by keeping an eye open for the ads in the World-Herald.) At significantly higher prices, but perhaps more conveniently, the disks may be purchased at the University bookstore.


Topics Schedule:

Although the semester lasts 16 weeks, not counting finals week, the class meets 15 times (since it is cancelled on Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving Break). I may also need to cancel one other class, in order to attend professional meetings. The following14 session schedule is a tentative list of topics to be covered, in very roughly chronological sequence. The sequence will be partially influenced by the availability and proper configuration of the computer lab, and by the needs of students.


    1. Overview of the course, introduction to email, Lotus Notes, organization of the lan, access to the lan, access to Office 97 programs (Word 97, Excel 97, and PowerPoint 97). Using CBT to learn Office 97 programs. Using Netscape to access Diamond and Sosin home pages on the World Wide Web (WWW). Alta Vista and other search engines; Dogpile and other meta-search engines.
    2. How to choose a research topic. Rule-of-thumb statistical analysis. Basic statistical analysis using eViews. [READ: Wyrick, Ch. 11; Kritzman paper; Passell article; Wyrick, pp. 136-142; Wyrick, pp. 145-161.]
    3. How to conduct a literature search using Genisys, Econlit, and UncoverHow to use the resources of the library effectively. ABI-Inform, the Social Science Citation Index, reference materials in economics, interlibrary loan, economics periodicals. How to write a research report. Proper form for internal citations, endnotes and bibliography. Research ethics: plagiarism, citations, acknowledgments. [READ: Wyrick, Ch. 3; Wyrick, Ch. 12]
    4. Sources of economic data (e.g. Citibase, National Longitudinal Surveys, Census, data on the Web such as Penn World Tables international data set). How to find and download data. Brief basics of survey design. How to present data clearly in tables and graphs. [READ: Lincoln and Ray article; Wyrick, Ch. 1; selections from Tufte Visual Display book.]
    5. How to enter, organize, transform and graph your data using Excel and SAS for Windows. The advantages of SAS. The structure SAS. Using the SAS documentation. [PICK: a research paper topic]
    6. SAS: basic econometric analysis.
    7. How to do basic econometric analysis using Shazam.
    8. The methodology of economics. [READ: Friedman methodology paper.] [DUE: submit an Excel spreadsheet with your data entered.] [DUE: preliminary research paper.]
    9. SAS: tips and using SAS for your project. Instructor assists students with questions and problems with research papers.
    10. Basic html editing for WWW documents. In-class construction of simple student home page. [READ: handout on "Resume-Writing Rules." Bring in one page draft resume.]
    11. Tips on Using PowerPoint. Color, fonts, special effects and more. How to load your PowerPoint presentation on the WWW. {Optional readings: Chressanthis article, Solberg example}
    12. How to make an effective presentation. How to write clearly. Course evaluation. [READ: Wyrick, Appendix 18; Wyrick, Ch. 4; McCloskey article; Jantz article]
    13. Most of PowerPoint presentations on term paper topics.
    14. Remainder of PowerPoint presentations on term paper topics. Review for final. [Research papers due]



Important Dates:

Nov. 6: Last day until 5:00 p.m. to drop course with a grade of "W"; or change course to "audit".

Nov. 24-27: Thanksgiving break (no classes).

Dec. 6: Paper due date.

Dec. 13: Final exam 6:00-8:40 pm.






Babbie, Earl R. Survey Research Methods. 2nd ed. Belmont, Cal.: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1990.

Chressanthis, George A. "The Demand for Chess in the United States, 1946-1990." The American Economist 38, no. 1 (Spring 1994): 17-26.

Kennedy, Peter. A Guide to Econometrics. 3rd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1992.

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970 [1st edition, 1962].

Morgenstern, Oskar. On the Accuracy of Economic Observations. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963.

The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, vols. 1-4, New York: Stockton Press, 1987.

NLS Handbook 1994. Columbus, Ohio: Center for Human Resource Research, 1994.

Nordhaus, William D. "Do Real-Output and Real-Wage Measures Capture Reality? The History of Light Suggests Not." In Robert J. Gordon and Timothy F. Bresnahan, eds., The Economics of New Goods. Chicago: University of Chicago Press for National Bureau of Economic Research, 1997, pp. 29-66.

Solberg, Eric J. Microeconomics for Business Decisions. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Co., 1992.

Strunk, William, Jr. and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Tufte, Edward R. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press, 1990.

University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style. 14th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, August 1993.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, Bicentennial Edition, Parts 1 & 2. Washington, D.C., 1975.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1994. (114th edition). Washington, D.C., 1994.