Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Enrico Cantoni

  • Credits 3

  • SSD SECS-P/01

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Economics (cod. 8408)

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

This course will guide students through the process of developing research ideas, gathering, processing, and analyzing the appropriate data, and effectively communicating their results. The course is designed specifically for students interested in doing empirical academic research. At the end of the course, students should be able to prepare a research proposal for a (feasible) empirical study and to deliver a short presentation about the research question, empirical strategy, and planned data work.

Course contents

  1. Research proposal and presentation: Your grade will be based on a four-page research proposal and a 15-minute presentation thereof.

  2. Class Participation: Active participation in all classes, including your classmates’ presentations, is highly, highly, highly (yes, I wrote that three times) recommended.

  3. Sketch of Potential Research Ideas: In the last week of classes, I will meet each of you individually to discuss your research idea(s), which will then culminate in the afore-said research proposal and presentation. Finding decent, viable research ideas is challenging, so you should start thinking about that ASAP. Once you have a couple of decent ones, please send me a succinct 1-page description structured along the lines I will describe in the first (or second class).

  4. Paper Readings for Second Class: On the second day of classes, we will discuss a few important, well-crafted empirical papers. Thus, ahead of that day, I ask you to skim the introduction of the following five papers (reading the entire papers is recommended, but not required):
  • Black, Sandra E., “Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation of Elementary Education,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1999, 114(2), 577-599.
  • Finkelstein, Amy, Matthew Gentzkow, and Heidi Williams, “Sources of Geographic Variation in Health Care: Evidence from Patient Migration,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2016, 131(4), 1681-1726.
  • Fujiwara, Thomas, “Voting Technology, Political Responsiveness, and Infant Health: Evidence from Brazil,” Econometrica, 2015, 83(2), 423-464.
  • Pons, Vincent, “Will a Five-Minute Discussion Change Your Mind? A Countrywide Experiment on Voter Choice in France,” American Economic Review, 2018, 108(6), 1322-1363.
  • Washington, Ebonya L., “Female Socialization: How Daughters Affect Their Legislator Fathers’ Voting on Women’s Issues,” American Economic Review, 2008, 98(1), 311-332.


Though the class will not be based on any specific textbook, there are a number of potentially useful sources:

  1. Econometrics: if you are interested in doing applied economics for a living, Angrist and Pischke’s Mostly Harmless Econometrics and Mastering ‘Metrics are fundamental references.

  2. Coding: Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro’s Code and Data for the Social Sciences (freely available here) is an essential reading for any economist working with data.

  3. Writing: two good references are The Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker, and The Elements of Style, by William Strunk. The former is an outstanding general style manual, while the latter is a succinct, albeit slightly outdated guide to polished writing. Jesse Shapiro’s notes on writing an Applied Micro Paper are also great and freely available here.

  4. Presenting: Jesse Shapiro is (again) a valuable free source of information on how to give an applied micro talk. His notes are available here. I also strongly recommend this outstanding book by Jonathan Schwabish.

Teaching methods

Exact dates and classrooms are still TBD as of August 26, 2020.

Class/Date Activities Deliverables

Class 1 Reading an econ paper 1

Class 2 Reading an econ paper 2 Skim intro of papers listed above

Class 3 Stata coding session 1 Bring your laptop w/ Stata on it!

Class 4 Stata coding session 2 Bring your laptop w/ Stata on it!

Class 5 Writing an econ paper 1

Class 6 Writing an econ paper 2

Class 7 Presenting an econ paper 1

Class 8 Presenting an econ paper 2

TBD 1-on-1 meetings Sketch(es) of research idea(s) due

TBD --- Research proposals due

TBD 1st round of students’ presentations

TBD 2nd round of students’ presentations

Assessment methods

A five-page research proposal and a 15-minute in-class presentation.

Office hours

See the website of Enrico Cantoni