Writing an Economics Thesis

Economics majors are not required to write a senior thesis. However, for those with the interest and motivation, writing a thesis can be a uniquely valuable learning experience, offering students the opportunity to develop their skills and interests while learning how to see a high-level research project through to completion.

Students interested in writing a thesis must enroll in one of the two-term (fall-winter or winter-spring) ECON 0701/0702 research workshops. The purpose of this two-semester sequence is to foster independent student research, culminating in a research paper in the style of an economics journal article.  These classes, capped at eight students, require the instructor’s approval to enroll and applications are invited in the prior term. Usually, two workshops are offered per semester.

Interested students should begin thinking about possible topics in their junior year. See posters throughout Warner and in the computer lab for previous examples, or Search the Repository. While any professor can be approached for assistance in developing ideas, students should contact professors who will serve as instructors for the workshops at least several months before the start of the term. (Generally, workshop instructors are announced in the middle of the spring semester of the preceding academic year.) Depending upon the topic, one of the workshop instructors may be a more appropriate match. Hence, the “right” instructor may be an important factor in determining the terms (fall-winter or winter-spring) in which to enroll in ECON 0701/0702.

Students who have prearranged a research topic with the professor will be given priority in admission to the seminar. Also, because of limited resources for guiding senior work, students with a single major in economics will be given priority over double majors who will do senior work in other departments.

Prior to enrolling in ECON 0701, students must have taken a minimum of six economics courses at Middlebury approved to count towards the major requirements. Each course will include both individual meetings and group meetings to develop new techniques and present and discuss research. Both presenting and offering feedback to peers are central to the workshop format.

As noted, ECON 0701/0702 sequence spans two terms. At the end of the first, students will receive a “placeholder” grade of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. At the end of the second term, students receive a letter grade that will be applied to both terms. That is, the “placeholder” grade from the previous term will be converted to the same letter grade that is received for the second terms. Although, the overall GPA will be calculated by the College using the two (identical) letter grades, for the purposes of the GPA within the Economics major, this letter grade counts only once.

Students interested in pursuing departmental honors must take the Senior Research Workshop sequence (ECON 0701 and ECON 0702). To receive departmental honors the student must receive a minimum grade of A- in ECON 0701 and ECON 0702, and also have a 3.5 or higher GPA in all economics courses taken at Middlebury approved to count towards the major requirements. High Honors requires a minimum grade of A in ECON 0701 and ECON 0702, and a 3.75 or higher economics GPA. Highest Honors requires a minimum grade of A in ECON 0701 and ECON 0702, and a 3.9 or higher economics GPA.  For more detailed information on how the economics GPA is calculated, please contact the department coordinator.

Additional Notes

  • There is no minimum GPA requirement for enrolling in ECON 0701.
  • ECON 0701/0702 sequence counts as one of the two senior-level (400) seminars required of all economics majors.
  • If after completion of ECON 0701, it is decided that a student will not continue in the sequence, ECON 0701 it can be converted to the ECON 0500 section of the corresponding instructor. ECON 0500 courses do not count towards the economics major requirements, though they are counted towards the college’s general requirements.

Past Thesis Titles

See a list of theses from our most recent graduates.