Senior Essay

The senior essay for economics majors is optional. If a senior wishes to be considered for distinction in the major, however, the senior essay is required. Most students who do a senior essay find it immensely rewarding and consider it one of their best experiences at Yale. We hope you will feel the same.

Students who wish to write a senior essay are strongly advised to take two semesters of econometrics before their senior year. Beginning with the class of 2021 students will no longer be permitted to write an essay if they have not taken two semesters of econometrics.

Senior essays can be 1-term or 2-term essays. The difference between a 1-term and a 2-term essay is the 2-term essay is broader in scope. Grading of the essay takes into account whether the essays are 1-term or 2-term. Most economics majors do 2-term essays.

Senior essays can be done in one of several ways:

1-Term Essays

  • Enroll in Econ 491a in the fall of your senior year.
  • Expand a term paper from a fall-term seminar in your senior year
  • Please note that a 1-term essay cannot be done in the spring term of your senior year.

2-Term Essays

  • Enroll in Econ 491a and Econ 492b
  • Expand a term paper from a fall-term seminar and enroll in Econ 492b (depends on availability of seminar instructor; with permission of instructor and DUS only)

Fall Term of Senior Year

  • Attend a senior essay meeting in the first weeks of classes (Meetings will be held on Tuesday, August 27, at 12:15 p.m. and Wednesday, August 28, at 4:00 p.m. in Room 106, 28 Hillhouse Avenue).
  • Choose an advisor and a topic.  You should refer to the Potential Advisors Section of our webpage for help finding an advisor who is available and is appropriate for your topic.  If you have difficulty with finding an advisor, see the DUS or the TA for suggestions.  There are many economics faculty members who may be ideal advisors for your topic.  Students may also choose an advisor from another department. In order to do an essay out of a fall seminar, you need the seminar professor to agree to be your advisor.
  • Submit a “Senior Essay Prospectus” on or before Monday, September 30, 2019 by 4:30 pm. The prospectus must be signed by your advisor. All students planning to write a senior essay must hand in a prospectus at this time. Failure to do so results in your not being permitted to write an essay.
  • Enroll in Econ 491a (not necessary if you are doing a senior essay out of a fall seminar).
  • Meet with your advisor regularly. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that these regular meeting occur.
  • A student who wishes to change a 1-term essay to a 2-term essay must get permission from the advisor and the DUS prior to the Thanksgiving break. To convert, a student must have made satisfactory progress on the essay by that time. No conversions will be allowed after Thanksgiving.
  • Students enrolled in a 2-term essay must submit a written progress report to their advisor on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.
  • 1-term senior essays are due Monday, December 2, 2019 by 4:30 pm, and a final version must be submitted on or before Wednesday, April 1, 2020 by 4:30pmSubmit an electronic copy via email to Mr. Qazi Azam. Late essays will not be accepted (in either December or April) without a Dean’s note.
  • 2-term senior essays must be submitted on or before Wednesday, April 1, 2020 by 4:30pm. Submit an electronic copy via email to Mr. Qazi AzamLate essays will not be accepted without a Dean’s note.

1-Term Senior Essays Fall Deadline

For students doing a 1-term essay by enrolling in Econ 491a, essays are due to your advisor on Monday, December 2, 2019 in the fall term. The advisor will evaluate and grade the paper, which will be your grade for the course.

For students doing a 1-term essay out of a seminar, essays are also due to seminar instructors by Monday, December 2, 2019 in the fall term. The advisor will evaluate and grade the paper, but the essay grade will not appear on your transcript. The grade and evaluation will be used for determination of distinction and departmental prizes.

(Note: Students doing the 1-term essay may continue to make additional revisions beyond the fall term before submitting the 1-term essay on the April due date for grading by the outside anonymous reader. Please bear in mind however, that advisors of 1-term essays may have other commitments and are not obligated to advise you beyond the fall term.)

2-term Essay Fall Deadline

Progress Report for 2-Term Senior Essays due Wednesday, November 6, 2019.

For those writing two-term senior essays, a progress report is due to your advisor on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. This report should describe the work that has been done on the senior essay during the fall semester and as such will serve as the basis for the grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory that the advisor must submit to the Registrar at the end of the fall semester.

While the exact nature of the progress report is left up to students and their advisors, the report should demonstrate that substantial progress has been made on the essay. It is expected that the nature of the progress report will vary considerably from individual to individual depending on the nature of the senior essay itself. For essays involving substantial data collection and statistical analysis, a description of the research question and the data that has been gathered for analysis may be appropriate. For others, a portion of the essay itself or a detailed outline describing the thesis question, existing literature, and planned method of analysis is suitable.

For students doing 2-term essays, your advisor will be asked to give you a temporary grade of satisfactory or not satisfactory for the fall term. This temporary grade for Econ 491a will be replaced by the final grade on your senior essay in April.

Spring Term of Senior Year

  1. For students doing 2-term essays, enroll in Econ 492b.
  2. Submit your essay electronically to the Economics Undergraduate Registrar, on or before Wednesday, April 1, 2020 (4:30pm).
  3. Advisor’s Reports with grades and comments and Reader’s Reports with grades and comments are usually available by reading week in the Economics Undergraduate Registrar’s Office.

Converting from a 1-term Senior Essay to a 2-term Senior Essay

Prior to the Thanksgiving break, with the permission of the advisor and the DUS, a student may convert a 1-term essay to a 2-term essay. No conversions will be permitted after Thanksgiving.

Senior essays are not intended to be reviews of the literature, rather they are an examination of a particular issue using the tools of economics. In particular, the essay must contain original research or/and analysis. They can be theoretical, empirical or computational. The senior essays that receive A’s and are awarded prizes are typically those that use economics tools (and, where appropriate, data) to offer fresh insights on questions. Topics are as diverse as recording and analyzing the behavior of black jack players, the effect of charter schools on student performance, the effect of China’s development on trade, the effect of the Fed on the stock market…. Examples of past essays are available on the Senior Essays Nominated for Prizes page .

There are no page requirements or formatting requirements for senior essays in economics. Advice regarding bibliographies, graphs, etc. should be given by your advisor. Generally essays run about 30 pages.

Econ 491a and Econ 492b count as 1 course credit each. For the requirements of the economics major, one term of the senior essay can substitute for a seminar. The second term of the senior essay counts as an economics elective.

Your senior essay will be graded by your advisor and by an anonymous economics faculty reader. The advisor grade will appear on your transcript if you enrolled in Econ 491a or 491a/492b. For students who are doing a 1-term essay out of a fall seminar, the advisor grade will not appear on your transcript (you will have received a course grade for the seminar). The reader grade does not appear on your transcript. However, we ask the advisors and the readers if they recommend the essay for prize committee. Both must agree before the essay will be considered for a prize.

To qualify for distinction, a senior must receive a grade of A or A- from their advisor on the senior essay and have 3/4 of their economics grades be A’s or A-’s. For the purpose of distinction economics grades include related course credit, but do not include introductory economics or the math requirement and courses taken outside of Yale.

Three or more prizes for outstanding senior essays are awarded each year by the economics undergraduate prize committee. The Charles Heber Dickerman Memorial Prize is awarded to the best senior essay; the Ronald Meltzer/Cornelia Awdziewicz Economic Award is awarded to one or more outstanding senior essays and the Ellington Prize is awarded to one or more seniors who have presented outstanding departmental essays in the field of finance.

At Commencement, students receiving these prizes are given a certificate and a monetary gift.