Project Guidelines

Department of Economics

Economics 620: The Senior Project

The Senior Project is not a mere report or term paper but is a significant piece of meaningful analytical research. It provides each student the experience of doing independent research under the guidance of a faculty advisor. The primary goal of Economics 620 is to provide an opportunity for the intensive analysis of an economic issue. Elements of a successful Senior Project are a clear research question, demonstrated knowledge of the historical and institutional setting, an appropriate theory, and the application of that theory through careful use of evidence.

The Senior Seminar (Economics 580-589) should be taken in the fall semester of the senior year followed by Economics 620 in the spring. One goal of the Senior Seminar is to allow the student to do background research, develop a research question, and find evidence. The student should also write a preliminary chapter of the Senior Project during the Senior Seminar. The expectation is that the instructor of the Senior Seminar will be the first reader on the Senior Project. Towards the end of the fall semester, students fill out a short proposal form, providing a preliminary title, a brief description (300 words maximum), and requests for first and second readers. If the requested first reader is not the instructor of the student’s Senior Seminar, the student must provide justification for switching advisers. The proposal form is provided in Appendix A. The department assigns readers at the beginning of the second semester, and the student must schedule a proposal defense with both readers during the first two weeks of the semester. By this point, the student will have a well-developed research question, read several sources, and begun to gather evidence. The proposal defense lasts approximately twenty minutes.

Economics 620 is devoted to the full development of the research question, the analysis and application of economic theory, writing, revision, and the oral defense. These should be done under the close supervision of the first reader.  The final oral examination occurs towards the end of the second semester and lasts approximately one hour. If the project advisers believe that the project has no chance of receiving a passing grade, the final oral will be cancelled. During the first five minutes, the student delivers a prepared overview of the research question and the major findings of the Senior Project. At the conclusion of the final oral, the student is informed whether a passing grade will be received. The final grade is based on the grading criteria provided in Appendix B.

Students completing one Senior Project for a double major must register with an add card that lists both majors. They are bound by the requirements of the department listed first on their Senior Project registration. The project advisor is a faculty member from the first-indicated department. The second reader is a faculty member from the other department.


Help in formulating a research agenda and doing economic research can be found in Steve Greenlaw’s Doing Economics: A Guide to Understanding and Carrying Out Economic Research. Guidelines for the typewritten presentation of the Senior Project can be found in the latest edition of Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations or in Diane Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference.[1] These guidelines are not a complete directory of what writers should do but answer some frequently asked questions. Failure to meet the formatting guidelines may result in a failing grade or a required rewrite before the final defense. Frequent grammatical and spelling mistakes may result in the final grade being reduced by up to two full letter grades.


Arrange the various parts of your paper in the following sequence:

  1. Frontispiece, such as an epigraph (if any)
  2. Title Page
  3. Acknowledgements or dedication (if any)
  4. Table of Contents
  5. List of Illustrations (if any)
  6. List of Tables
  7. Abstract
  8. Introduction
  9. Main Body
  10. Appendixes* (if any)
  11. Bibliography

*Appendixes may be placed immediately after the chapter for which they specifically provide additional information. If the material in the appendix is of a more general nature, the preferred placement is at the end of the Project, before the Bibliography.


The abstract is roughly 200 words long and summarizes the thesis and contents of the Project. It should contain a statement of the thesis, procedures and methods, results, and the conclusions. For examples of abstracts, see any article in the American Economic Review.


Each page is numbered. However, the number is not shown on the Title Page. All pages prior to the introduction are numbered using small Roman numerals (ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). The Title Page counts as page i, unless there is a frontispiece. Number the pages of the body of the work with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) starting with the Introduction and continuing consecutively to the end of the Bibliography. Page numbers are placed on the upper right hand corner of the page.


Each chapter should begin with the chapter number and the title of the chapter. Further subdivide the chapter into Sections and Subsections according to the logic of the material presented. The introductory section of the chapter needs no heading or number; subsequent section headings should be given Roman numerals; subsections should be lettered A, B, etc.


Tables and figures must be numbered consecutively and the numbering must correspond to the numbering given in the Table of Contents. Each chapter should begin the numbering anew. For example, Table 2.1 would be the first table in Chapter II, and Table 3.1 would be the first table in Chapter III and so on. Tables must also be titled clearly. The source of the table is given at the bottom of the table as well as other general notes referring to the table. Each table has its own set of footnotes that are separate from the text footnotes or endnotes. On this and other matters consult Turabian or Hacker. Tables may be photocopied from other sources and incorporated by mounting the material in its proper place in the paper. Such tables must be renumbered to conform to your number sequence. Tables should be incorporated into the main text unless they are more than a page long, in which case they should be given as an appendix.


Text should be typed on one side of the page only. Double-space all material including abstracts, text, references, footnotes, and table headings. One-inch margins on both sides are required.


Footnotes should be at the bottom of the page, numbered consecutively with Arabic numerals, and double-spaced.


Equations should be typed on separate lines and numbered consecutively at the left margin, using Arabic numerals in parentheses.


When used, notation should be listed, summarized, and briefly identified in a separate table.


Authors are encouraged to use an appendix for technical proofs and derivations that can be separated from the main text. The appendix should follow the text and precede the references.


Quotations must correspond exactly with the original in wording, spelling, and punctuation. Page numbers must be given. Changes must be indicated: Use brackets to identify insertions; use dots (…) to show omissions. Also indicate where emphasis has been added. Quotations beginning or ending in the middle of a sentence should begin or end with dots. Only quotations of over 50 words should be separated from the text. These quotations should also be double-spaced and indented at the beginning margin.


The authority for spelling, capitalization, and hyphenation of words is Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.


The first reference to an individual should include the first name (or initials, if the first name is not used). Subsequent references should be by last name only. Do not refer to individuals as Mister, Doctor, Professor, etc.


The first reference should give the name in full, followed by abbreviation in parentheses–subsequent references should give abbreviation only. For example: first usage, Social Science Research Council (SSRC); second usage, SSRC.


The Department of Economics requires that students use the American Psychological Association (APA) system to cite sources. See Hacker for a description of this method.


See The Compass for a description of Allegheny’s Honor Code and a definition of plagiarism.

APPENDIX A: Your proposal should be typewritten and include the following information.

Date Submitted:
Intended Date of Grad:
Tentative Title:
Statement of Intent or Outline of Project:

Preferred Advisers:



Attach a preliminary bibliography.

Appendix B: Economics 620 Evaluation Sheet

  • Is the statement of the underlying question or issue to be addressed presented clearly in the Abstract, Introduction, Body, and Conclusion of the paper?
  • Does the paper’s Introduction provide a clear overview of the material covered and the approach taken in the work?
  • Is the economic theory and methodology presented in the paper appropriate given the underlying problem, and is it thoroughly explained?
  • Does the empirical evidence connect with and flow smoothly from the theoretical model? Does it make use of appropriate statistical or other techniques in evaluating the research questions under consideration?
  • Are the paper’s conclusions reasonably drawn and consistent with statements and findings in previous sections of the paper?
  • Is the overall quality of writing, including grammar, spelling, and word choice sound? Is the overall presentation of material clear and well organized?
  • Does the paper’s content and bibliography provide adequate citation and review of previously published materials relevant to the study, including the incorporation of important findings by economists who have examined issues pertaining to the underlying problem?
  • Is material that should be cited – paraphrase and quotation – properly cited? Is the citation technique used consistent with the APA citation method?
  • In the oral examination, was the opening statement clear? Was a solid understanding of the underlying problem, relevant theory, and empirical measurement apparent?