Senior Project Information

by Douglass Klein, Economics Department, Union College

Your senior thesis is the capstone of your college academic career. It is your chance to use all of your economic, analytic, and writing skills and to become expert in an area. The process of preparing a senior project is as important as the final product. Thus the requirements for Economics 009-199 include the completion of a number of steps:

Specific information

  1. Statement of topic
  2. Progress report
  3. Bibliography
  4. Outline
  5. Research
  6. Oral examination
  7. Data acquisition
  8. Financial assistance
  9. Chapter drafts
  10. Final copy
  11. Undergraduate Research Conference and Steinmetz Symposium
Schedules and Evaluation of your work Possible topics


  • regular progress reports and weekly meetings with me;
  • submission of intermediate documents and chapter drafts;
  • an oral examination;
  • careful revision of written work;
  • submission of the final product, in proper form, on time.


  • identification of an important and interesting research question;
  • a complete, accurate, thoughtful review of existing literature;
  • a substantial contribution to that literature which advances knowledge in your chosen area.

Specific information:

Anything which you give me to read must be word processed. Please double space drafts to allow room for comments and easier editing. Alternatively, e-mailing me progress reports and regular updates of your bibliography by the assigned date is acceptable. (

1. Statement of topic.

Provide a one page summary of your topic. If this is still too general, I will work with you to narrow it appropriately.

2. Progress reports.

Each week, submit a report of new thesis work accomplished. Include your current bibliography, new ideas you have, and any questions you have.

3. Bibliography.

Begin immediately to compile a bibliography. I suggest using your word processor, and entering both the complete citation and your reading notes. You can use this file to create the formal bibliography for your thesis, and this will save a tedious job at the end. Please give me your bibliography (or at least new additions) with your weekly report.

Depending on your topic, I may be able to give you some references in your area. In addition, you can start by consulting the following:

xxxxEconLit (CD-ROM in Schaffer Library and via the Web -- go to Library, Electronic Resources, OCLC.
xxxxThis should be your initial search tool.

xxxxThe Schaffer Library catalog.

The Internet is connected to many government databases and hundreds of library catalogs at other sites. You might want to start with

xxxxResources for Economists on the Internet by Bill Goffe (available through the Eco. Dept. home page.)

xxxxThe Library Web page for Economics Senior thesis students (through Electronic Resources -- Research Guides) xxxx

There are other specialized indices of newspapers, government documents, and various data sources, which the reference librarians can help you find and use. In particular, learn about the ASI (American Statistics Index) and the SRI (Statistical Reference Index) which are good sources of data. If you have not done so already, you should have me sign a thesis-loan form so that you can take out books for an extended period.

Plan to make frequent use of interlibrary loan for materials not in our library. ILL requests can now be submitted over the Web. Go to Electronic Requests on the Library web site.

4. Outline.

To assist both your research and writing, prepare a working outline of your thesis, which you continually revise, expand and update until you are ready to write. Initially, your outline can be as simple as:

I. Introduction

II. Literature survey

III. Methodology and data sources

IV. Tests of hypothesis

V. Conclusion

Turn in a two-page outline as part of your report, as scheduled.

When you write, you should use this outline. I want you to use your outline to make titles for your chapters, and headings for the sections and sub-sections within them. This will make the thesis easier for you to write, and easier for me to read.

5. Research.

Initially your research will involve locating and reading as many sources related to your topic as you can (scholarly books and professional journal articles). This teaches you what research has already been done, what approaches have been taken, and what data has been used. Be thinking about how these studies relate to one another, and to your project. Also formulate a testable hypothesis, i.e. a statement whose truth or falsity you do not now know, but which you can accept or reject through experiment or analysis. You may also want to read "popular" literature (magazines and newspapers), or conduct interviews if appropriate. The remainder of the research is carrying out tests of your hypothesis and writing up the results.

One inevitable result of any research project is the realization of how much more could be done. Don't be discouraged. Keep track of these "ideas for further research," which you should discuss in your concluding chapter. This is a very important part of the thesis.

6. Oral examination.

In the eighth week of the Fall term, you will be examined by one or more Department members. You must have submitted a formal abstract and revised outline of your thesis. These documents will be given to your examiner, who will then convey to me his or her assessment of your progress and understanding of your topic. (If you are in the honors program, your examination schedule will be set by Prof. Kenney.) You will be graded High Pass, Pass, Marginal Pass, Fail on this oral. This grade will be posted, and will help determine your final thesis grade.

7. Data acquisition.

If you are doing a statistical analysis, you must locate any data you require no later than the end of the Fall term. This is essential, so that you can complete any empirical work during the Winter term, and have time to write and revise your results. A major cause of a disappointing thesis is failure to locate and obtain data in time to make good use of it. Data acquisition and analysis is a very time consuming process.

8. Financial assistance.

The College's Internal Education Fund (IEF) provides money for research-related travel, and data acquisition. If you would like to apply, let me know, and I will help. Forms are available in Sciences and Engineering S-100. Application deadline is near the middle of Fall term. The Economics Department also administers the E. Dwight Phaup fund to support student research in Economics. Ask me about the deadline.

9. Chapter drafts.

Give me drafts of chapters as soon as they are ready, so that I can make suggestions and return them. At a minimum, you must turn in drafts of two chapters by mid-November, and drafts of all chapters by the end of the seventh week of the Winter term). Keep drafts of chapters with my comments so that I can assess your revisions. At the end of Winter term, you must submit both your final thesis and all chapter drafts.

The chapters due in November should include an introductory chapter and a literature review chapter. The introduction (5-10 pages*) should present an overview and background of your topic, along with a description of your thesis (e.g., a paragraph or two describing each chapter). The introduction might also include any historical information needed to put your thesis in context.

The literature review (20-25 pages*) should include a fairly detailed analysis of the scholarly work which has been done to date on your topic. Do not simply string together a series of "book reports" on lots of different readings. Rather, organize what you have read by different topics--e.g. different approaches to the problem, different conclusions, different questions addressed--and compare and contrast the different sources. This chapter sets the stage for your own work, and shows how your work fits in.

* Chapter lengths are suggestions only. Individual cases may vary, although to receive a passing grade, you must turn in a minimum of 25 typed pages by mid-November. Talk to me about the specific date.

10. Final copy.

Next term I will distribute guidelines for the final copy. Final typed theses are due the last day of classes of Winter term.
NO EXCEPTIONS. Department policy requires me to fail any thesis not turned in on time.

11. Undergraduate Research Conference and Steinmetz Symposium

If you are interested in presenting your thesis research at either of these events let me know, and I will work with you to prepare an application. NCUR applications are due in November, and the conference is in Spring. I also hope that many of you decide to participate in the on-campus Steinmetz Symposium during Spring Term.


Check with me for this year's dates to enter into your calendar.


Initial meeting in my office.

First weekly progress report

Statement of topic due

Weekly reports

Include initial outline

Abstract and outline due for oral exam

9th or 10th week Oral exams

Two chapter drafts due, plus data sources

December break:
Keep reading and writing. Update literature survey; plan statistical analysis. Be sure your data is in hand or on order.
Weekly reports
Weekly reports

Drafts of all chapters due

During January and February, your weekly report may consist of all or part of a chapter draft, or revisions.

Final typed thesis. Must be handed in on date and time specified. * NO EXCEPTIONS *


Initial Information

Name: Box: Phone: Voice mail: e-mail:

Major(s) and minor:

Home address and phone (during December):

Academic Advisor(s):

Economics and related courses:

12 20 31 42 34 Acct. 10 138 145 (Circle)

Other (list number and/or name):

What courses are you taking Fall term this year besides thesis, and when do they meet?

In what area(s) are you interested in working on your thesis? (If you already have a topic in mind, please be specific.)

List times you would be available for meetings on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.

Please sign up for a regular weekly 30 minute meeting. If you need additional time, you can schedule it at your weekly meeting. Plan to see me whether or not you think you have anything to discuss.

Evaluation Forms (Samples)


Evaluating your process

Topic: _________________________

Date due: What?  Date done Comments
  Initial meeting    
  First progress report    
  Statement of topic    
  Weekly report    
  Weekly report + Outline    
  Weekly reports...    
  Abstract/outline for oral exam    
  Oral exam    
  Two chapters due and data sources    
  Drafts of ALL chapters    
  Final typed thesis    


Evaluation of product:

Clear and interesting statement of topic

Bibliography and literature review

Organization, good use of outline

Mechanics: format, grammar and spelling

Response to comments on drafts

Appropriate and correct use of economic and/or statistical analysis to address the topic

Clear and significant conclusions and recommendations for further research

Final grade:

Possible topics

  1. What is the effect of government regulation (specifically environmental and safety and health regulations) on the productivity and international competitiveness of US firms?
  2. What is the effect of market structure on the pricing and costs of health care (specifically hospital costs) across states in the US? I have data for this project covering the 1980s and 1990s  
  3. The effects of size and ownership (public vs. private) on the costs and efficiency of water utilities. This is a project of particular interest to a commission studying the efficiency of government provided services in the Capital District of New York, but I envision this as a nation-wide, and perhaps even international study.
  4. The same idea as (3) could be applied to any other service provided both publicly and privately, including education, health care, electricity, public transportation, to name just a few.
  5. Measuring the effectiveness of using technology in the educational process, either in primary, secondary, post-secondary education, or in job training.
  6. A study of market structure or efficiency of manufacturing based on data in the 1832 McLean Report, a Congressional survey of manufacturing in the US.
  7. Correcting concentration ratios for international trade. A follow-up to work done in the late 60s and early 70s. How has the nature of competition changed in different industries.
  8. Hedonic analysis of automobile prices: performance vs. environmental, energy, and safety concerns.
  9. The effects of gasoline prices on the achievement of Corporate Average Fleet mileage targets, and the role of mergers and joint ventures in meeting regulatory goals.
  10. Emissions trading under the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. The volume of trading, and the determination of emissions permit prices.
  11. A survey of laboratory experiments in industrial economics, including replicating one or more.
  12. What determines the success of cartels. Cartel success and capacity. Methods of combating international cartels. I have some interesting data on the history of international cartels.
  13. Price changes and capacity utilization
    - cross sectional analysis, using CITIBASE data
    - case study of one industry - steel, computers, autos, etc.
  14. Measuring competition in the airline industry, based on concentration and price in different city-pair markets.
  15. Prospects for competition in the electric power industry--the technology and economics of electric power generation, transmission, and distribution.
  16. Strategic behavior and changes in market shares in the U.S. automobile industry.
  17. The efficiency of Old vs. New (Polytechnic) Universities in the UK. (I know someone at the University of Newcastle who might be able to supply data.)
  18. Measuring the efficiency of different methods of meeting regulatory targets in an industry (e.g., automobile emissions, emissions from electric power generating plants).
  19. An extension of any project begun in Eco. 25 (Efficient Management of Technology).
  20. The relationship between capacity utilization and measured efficiency, either cross-section or industry-specific. Is it fair to brand a firm inefficient if it is stuck with excess capacity. Does it matter why it has excess capacity (change in consumer tastes vs. poor management).? How could we distinguish between different reasons for excess capacity?