Economics graduates, even those from the top universities in the country, often lack essential research skills to analyse the most pressing issues of the 21st century, employers tell us. In fact, to be successful in today’s demanding labour market, research skills such as confidently summarising ideas and arguments, thoroughly analysing novel problems, or discussing and presenting your own research are vital. ExploreEcon, our undergraduate conference in economics, gives students a unique opportunity to practice those skills and to become well-rounded economists, fit for the challenges of the modern workplace.
Your paper or poster, if accepted, would be published on the conference website, and the best paper and best poster will be awarded a prize by our judging panel. All you have to do is to come up with an interesting topic and submit a proposal by Friday 19th January 2018. There are several support sessions available to assist you in preparing your contribution.
But is this not a lot of extra work? It could be, and some of the students in previous years really engaged in independent research. Others based their contribution on coursework essays or research projects they had written for their modules. In any case, the rewards will greatly outweigh the effort you put in. This is your opportunity to write a short paper, present it to your peers and get published online. What a winning contribution to your CV!
We caught up with last year’s Explore Econ winner, Justin Lam.
Why did you decide to take part in Explore Econ?
I wanted to try carrying out independent research, in order to gain experience in solving real world problems that are not covered in our textbooks. This is also a unique experience provided by UCL, and I thought that I should take every opportunity to better equip myself for further study
What question did your research aim to answer?
My question was: How well do we interpret information under uncertainty?
How did you decide what question you wanted to research?
Partly because of my personal interest in behavioural economics, and partly due to feasibility constraints. I have always been curious as to how economics can explain people’s behaviour and I saw this as a chance to try out my thoughts. The book “Nudge” by Richard Thaler helped me gain some preliminary insights, and then I began to review the literature around the topic I was interested in. After that, I went to get advice on my ideas from professors and the Drayton Tribune. I decided on an experiment as data collection was easier, and it was a fun project.
How did you go about the research process?
The research process was challenging. I used a lot of different skills during the process, from seeking advice, designing and organising the experiment, and finally data management and report writing. I found the input I got from my professors invaluable, as they reminded me what was most important in my research topic, and showed me how to present my ideas effectively. Special thanks to Antonio Cabrales, Antonio Guarino, Martin Cripps, and Parama Chaudury. One thing I also learnt from this was how to combine the advice of others with my own thoughts.
How long did it take you to conduct your research?
I worked on my project steadily, from October to February. But of course I did not work on it every day, it was just constantly at the back of my mind. Time management is really important, and dedication and perseverance are certainly needed.
What advice would you give to students who want to take part in Explore Econ?
Firstly, don’t be shy to ask for help, especially from the professors! The one thing I benefited the most is the expertise of professors, and discussion with them will certainly help you get into the mindset of a researcher and provide you with new angles or perspectives for your problems.
Second, ask yourself which topics appeal to you and do some background research. Sometimes, it can be hard to know what interests you- a way to explore is to look at available data sets and search for inspiration. The department has provided excellent resources for this on the Further Study page, where data sets are available.
What are your plans for the future?
My plan would be to continue my studies to PhD, hopefully to become a researcher in economics. I may stay in academia if opportunities allow, but I will see where life takes me!
If you have any queries about the conference, please do not hesitate to contact Parama Chaudhury, Cloda Jenkins or anyone else from the CTaLE team.
For more information on ExploreEcon2018 please have a look at the Explore Econ Moodle Page and visit the CTaLE page: https://ctale.org/projects/explore-econ/.