Before reaching out to request a letter of recommendation, please consider if I'm the best person for the job. Am I uniquely able to speak to your qualifications for the position? Have I interacted with you in significant ways outside of the classroom? If not, you may be better off finding another recommender.
If you would like to request a letter of recommendation, please let me know as soon as possible. Send me an email with the deadline and any similar deadlines you think will follow (e.g., for a series of applications). For the best possible letter, I will ask for a follow-up email at least two weeks before the deadline with the following information:
A description of the position/program you’re applying for, the deadline and procedure for submitting the recommendation, and any special information (length restrictions, criteria, etc.).
Your CV or resume.
Any other relevant documents that you're sending to the organization (e.g., cover letter, writing samples, research proposals, transcripts, test scores). If you don’t have final versions of these documents, you can send drafts and then follow up with the final version later.
A short document called a “sliced bread memo” — that is, why you're the best thing since sliced bread (credit for this idea goes to Gary King). It should include the following:
How have we interacted? Remind me of your grades in my classes, any RA/TA work, thesis advising, etc. Don’t assume that I will remember something if you exclude it.
Why did you ask me to be a reference? What particular aspects of your experience or character am I in a unique position to attest to?
The things that make you great, and a great fit for this job. Feel free to brag — no one else will see the memo, but it will help me to have solid information about your qualifications. Describe any prizes or grants you’ve won and other special accomplishments. You can also include any anecdotes that highlight elements of your character or experience.
If you're working on a thesis or original research, include a brief (2–3 sentence) description.
If there's anything negative on your application (like a low grade), let me know about it and any mitigating factors.
All documents should be in PDF format (please don’t send Word documents) and attached to the email. Feel free to attach the files directly or zip them together in a attachment.
I enjoy helping graduate students generate original research and develop a research agenda. In this section I outline my expectations for advisees and make explicit some of the norms in the field.
BECOMING AN ADVISEE
There are several paths to working with me. I’m happy to meet with you at any stage in your progress for feedback on a project or informal advice. If you’d like to discuss a new idea or ongoing research, you can email to set up a time, or invite me to your student seminar presentation. Informal meetings and presentations are a good way to find out if we have overlapping interests.
RA work is another path to building an advising relationship. If you might be interested in working with me as an RA, please reach out early to discuss your research interests. RA assignments generally occur a semester before the RA work begins, so let me know about your interest as early as possible. (See “Research Assistantships” below for more details.)
All advisees should be making progress toward a dissertation, which should be a collection of standalone research articles. These articles may be solo-authored, co-authored with other graduate students, or co-authored with faculty, though I strongly recommend at least one article be solo-authored.
Publishing is essential for many careers in economics. By the time they graduate, successful students will have multiple complete, publication-quality articles, with additional projects in different stages of the research pipeline.
I expect to meet with advisees regularly (i.e., weekly or every other week). I recommend regular meetings with your advisers to keep us informed of your progress on ongoing research, address roadblocks, and vet new ideas. Many students meet with faculty too rarely, feeling that they haven’t made sufficient progress. While it is important to make progress between meetings, don’t let an obstacle in the research prevent you from setting up a meeting.
I expect advisees to give internal presentations (i.e., presentations to students and faculty in the department) several times per year. This is an excellent way to get feedback on a research question, design, framing, and initial results. It is normal to feel underprepared, and to hide from these presentations until the research is more polished. However, it is imperative to overcome this instinct. Internal presentations are good deadlines to push projects forward, and give the faculty a chance to see how you are progressing. In addition, students are often concerned that presenting the same research idea repeatedly will waste the audience’s time. This repetition is an important part of the research process. It will let you hone your pitch for the project, and give you a chance to evaluate changes in the presentation. From third year onward, I expect advisees to present internally at least three times per year.
Students approaching the end of their third year should begin presenting to external audiences. Student conferences are a great way to being presenting your research externally. Papers that are coauthored with faculty are often farther along than solo-authored research; consider presenting these coauthored papers for practice developing your presentation skills, and for the chance to build your professional network.
Many students have a fear of “getting scooped” — that is, having another researcher beat the student to publication on a similar research idea. This makes research a competitive endeavor, and leads some researchers to keep new ideas and datasets private until publication. I believe this harms the quality of economic research and slows progress. You can avoid a race to publication by identifying research questions that you are uniquely positioned to answer. Some ways to avoid putting yourself in this position:
Do the legwork to collect a new and unique dataset. Administrative, logistical, and cost barriers to collecting data can be a great asset. If no one else has your data, the probability of getting scooped is very low. Also, new data is a contribution to the field: regardless of the outcome of your project, you’ve created a good that benefits economics as a whole.
Research in the middle of the ocean, rather than in a sandbar. Economic knowledge is like islands in the ocean — islands of research tend to cluster together, while huge areas remain unexplored. Avoid looking for new discoveries in well charted territory. Instead, explore the wild seas.
COAUTHORING WITH FACULTY
Coauthored research can be a good way to work closely with faculty on a project. The benefits to you include building relationships with faculty, working on a project with some structure (i.e., concrete tasks for making progress), and the possibility of a publication on a faster timeline. On the other hand, it is easy to overinvest in coauthored projects, at the expense of your independent research. This is a difficult balance. I invite coauthorships with students, but I encourage you to consider your other commitments before starting a coauthored project, manage your time carefully, and prioritize progress on your independent research.
I believe that Research Assistantships should be mutually beneficial, giving you an opportunity to develop new skills and learn about an area of the research literature. If you are interested in working with me as a Research Assistant, please reach out via email as early as possible.
It is valuable to establish authorship roles early in a research project. Researchers who make significant contributions to a research project (developing the initial idea, designing the methodology, collecting and analyzing data, and/or writing the manuscript) should expect to be listed as an author, unless their role is compensated in some other way and determined in advance (for example, as a research assistant). I prefer to determine authorship early in the course of a project, though it is possible to agree to a change of roles later.
I do not restrict my advisees in their career paths. While I am most knowledgeable about academia, I am happy to advise students working toward any career. Aside from career-specific requirements (e.g., the timing of the job market), expectations are the same for all advisees, regardless of the career path.
In general, I expect advisees to fund their own research through grants, fellowships, and scholarships. Learning to identify and apply for relevant resources is a useful skill, particularly since running experiments can be expensive. If you are having trouble funding a project, come speak to me; we may be able to find ways to reduce the costs of the project, or dig up new sources of funding.