Your essay is worth 15-20% of your grade.
The essay will discuss a journal article that deals with American economic history. A discussant at an academic conference is the person with the responsibility of providing valuable feedback to the author and audience. In your role as discussant you will 1) identify the question that the article is trying to answer, 2) explain how the author tries to answer the question, 3) explain the article's conclusion and relevance, 4) give criticisms that you have with the paper, and, importantly, 5) offer your suggestions for making the paper better.
The journal article that you are to discuss is to be of an academic kind and of a substantial length (at least 8 pages). The article must be an original piece of research, and not a book review, a dissertation summary, or a summary of a conference, for example. The article must mostly deal with a historical period in the U.S. before 1980.
You will turn in two drafts of your essay, and both will be graded. The first is due Thursday, March 28 and is worth about 2/3 of the score. This first draft is not a "rough draft" but should be your best effort. I will grade and edit this first draft and return to you. The revisions are due Thursday, April 25. You must turn in your first draft along with the revised draft or you will receive no credit for revisions.
Most papers in economic history tend to be far less mathematical than other economic articles. Many are also well written. You should chose a paper that is interesting to you. The following journals are the approved journals and are readable by non-econ majors. If you would like to use an article from another source, please get approval from Prof. Eschker before you start your paper:
The Journal of Economic History. This is the flagship economic history journal. (HSU Library has print edition or use J-STOR or other electronic sources for early editions)*To find electronic or print versions of a journal, go to the HSU Library on-line or see a librarian. The electronic sources change all the time, so see a librarian for the latest information.
The Economic History Review. This journal is good too. (Library has print edition, electronic full text, or use J-STOR or other electronic sources for early editions)
Explorations in Economic History. Good journal. (Library has electronic full text or request print edition through Interlibrary Loan)
Business History Review. Good journal. (HSU Library has print edition or electronic full text)
The essay will be 3-4 pages long, typed, and double-spaced. Include page numbers. The best papers will not simply summarize the article but rather provide an thoughtful evaluation of the paper. For some of you, visiting the HSU Writing Center will be very useful, and many of you will want to have a friend look at your essay before you turn it in. Do not hesitate to contact Prof. Eschker if you have any questions about choice of article, article content, or anything else related to the essay. It's best to see Prof. Eschker early rather than waiting until the day before to finish your essay.
Your essay will be graded on writing mechanics, your summary of the article, and your critique and suggestions. You can read the Grading Rubric and Good Writing Rules. Here are good writing examples 1, 2, and 3. And here are bad writing examples 1, 2, and 3.
Tips for writing your essay:
1. Make your essay easy for me to read. Organize it into the five sections listed above, in order, and label each section.
2. Give the complete reference for your article, including authors, title, journal, year, volume, and pages.
3. Newer journal articles (written after 1965) tend to be easier to follow, with an abstract, introduction, and conclusion. Older articles tend to be written in a less concise, essay format. Remember, the topic must be historical, but the journal article needn't be old.
4. Use spell checker and grammar checker. Have someone proof read your essay before you turn it in.
5. Place special emphasis on sections 4 (criticisms) and 5 (suggestions).
Tips for reading the journal article:
1. First, read the paper's abstract, introduction, and conclusion. These will tell you what question that the article is trying to answer, how the author tries to answer the question, and what the conclusions are.
2. Second, re-read the paper's abstract, introduction, and conclusion.
3. Notice the outline of the paper. What is each section of the paper trying to accomplish? Usually the introduction tells you what to expect in upcoming sections. A common outline includes an introduction, a presentation of economic theory, a description of the data, the empirical results, and a conclusion.
4. The figures and tables usually have something important to say (otherwise the author wouldn't have taken the time to separate them from the main text body).
5. Skip over the more challenging parts of the paper during the first reading of the article. Try to read the article through the first time without getting stuck in the details.
6. Read the article a second (or third) time if needed.
7. If the mathematical or statistical parts of the paper make no sense, try to understand what is being done, even if you can't understand how to do it.
8. If you're really stuck, see Professor Eschker, or
consider picking another paper.