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Choosing Your Topic

Choosing an easier topic that more people are writing on is a low risk, but low reward strategy.

Let your interests guide you – the better papers are always on topics that have motivated the author to learn more and dig a little deeper.

Papers on debates may be more mechanical, and easier to write, but like easier topics, they have lower risks and lower rewards.


Start with the readings from the class syllabus, but your topic specific research must rely on sources from off the reading list.

Check syllabi from other international economic history courses offered at serious economics departments in Canada and the US: U of T; UBC; McGill; UCLA; Berkeley; Northwestern; Yale; Vanderbilt; Colorado-Boulder.

Queen’s journal archives include all serious economic history (and economics) journals from past 25 years.

Rely on peer-reviewed, academic research from serious sources. This does not necessarily mean no exclusively online material, but check where your sources have been cited in other academic research.

Most term papers will use 4-5 sources.


Structuring Your Paper

Thesis Statement: be explicit about the topic of your paper – what question are you asking, why are you bothering to ask it, what is the answer you have come up with?

Your paper should be an economics paper (not a history, or sociology, or philosophy paper). This means you should adopt an analytical approach to your topic that is founded on economic theory and/or empirical evidence.

You do not necessarily need to employ theoretical techniques or statistical methods in your paper (although you may do so if you wish), but your analysis of the literature you are working with should be informed by these techniques and methods.

A summary of the relevant literature is a good first step towards writing a good term paper, but the very best papers will also combine, compare, contrast, and/or critique the literature.

You do not necessarily need to “choose a side”, although adopting a particular perspective may help to focus the paper and guide your analysis of the literature.