“Fertility and Financial Development”
report being 2 ½ to 4 single spaced pages in length—one inch margins on each side and no larger than 12-point font) to fulfill the writing requirement for the course. Referee reports are not reaction papers. They are your honest and thorough assessment of the scholarly value of the paper in question. By this stage in your education you should be able to evaluate scholarship critically and offer a well-justified assessment of the research of others. Your report you will need to show that you understand the author’s paper and that you understand how it fits into the literature. Most important, you will need to draw on your knowledge of economics, econometric and the related literature to assess the value of the paper. In doing so you need to point out how the paper can be improved and/or extended. If you are not convinced by an argument in the paper, explain why. If something is confusing, point it out. If the author does not properly summarize the work of others, point that out as well. It is fine to be critical (and you are expected to be), but you should aim to be constructive above all. What could the author do to make that research more convincing? What could reasonably be done to improve the paper? No research is perfect, and pointing out ways in which it could be improved is an important part of scientific inquiry.
In general, referee reports contain three sections. (1) The first is a brief paragraph that says, in your own words, what the paper is about. (Note: repeating or paraphrasing the abstract of the paper does not satisfy this requirement.) This paragraph is important in that it establishes whether or not you understood the basic point of the paper. (2) The second section is most important—this is where you note two to four major points that you have with the paper. For example, the authors write a paper about the effect of X on Y, but their data is only a proxy for X—one major point you would raise is whether the effect estimated can really be of X on Y. If the model does has no relationship to the empirical approach, this is where such points are made. (3) The third section details minor points such as misspellings, confusing phrasing, grammar, etc. On the course website you will find two notes that detail how referee reports work. These have been taken from course syllabi in other courses and you should use them as a guide for your own referee reports. In the first Friday of the term I will cover reports in detail and go over the reports I have received for one of my own research papers (which we will also read in this course).
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