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EC9AA: The Practice of Economics Research

  • Roger Farmer

    Module Leader
  • Dan Bernhardt

    Module Lecturer
  • Debraj Ray

    Module Lecturer
15 CATS - Department of Economics
Summer Module

Principal Aims

The principal aim of this module is to serve as a bridge between theoretical material taught in other year-one core modules and the practical application of theory and methods to concrete research questions, informed by other considerations (such as institutional structures). The focus is on the development of the skills needed to conduct research, including identifying and formulationg research questions that are informed by current debates both in academia and outside it (for example in public policy), identifying appropriate sources and methods, dealing with the practical aspects of deploying those methods, and communicating and disseminating research results effectively. By comparison with the other core modules taken by students in the first year of the MRes programme, this module is distinctive in its emphasis on learning by example and on learning by doing.

Principal Learning Outcomes

Students should gain a critical knowledge of which research methods are most suited to address specific questions (also taking into account practical constraints, such as data availability), and should develop an appreciation and experience of how these methods can be used in practice. They should also gain an understanding of how economic research can be informed by current debates (of both academic and public policy natures), and how the results of their research can contribute to those debates.


Illustrative topics might include: (i) Analysis of historical patterns of growth and development and assessment of the persistent effects of history on development today; analysis of episodes of crisis in history and interpretation to shed light on current events and debates; critical analysis of the use of historical sources.

(ii) Locating, accessing, handling and analysis of official statistics, large administrative data and other datasets.

(iii) The design and conduct of lab-based experiments, field experiments, and randomized control trials.

(iv) The deployment of computational methods

(v) The use of non-quantitative sources (case studies, legal documents) and application of appropriate methods of analysis (e.g. lexicographic analysis of historical and legal texts and of survey data).

(vi) Critical appraisal of different research methods and approaches to economic research, including: qualitative methods, theoretical modelling, simulation methods and other empirical methods.

(vii) Appraisal of the role of institutions, institutional change and economic performance.


Core Module
L1PJ - Year 1


Assessment Method
100% coursework
Coursework Details
One 5000-word written research report (100%)
Exam Timing