Writing the Economics Essay

An academic rhetoric (or organisation) is important to convince a reader that you understand the topic well – poor organisation can signal muddled thinking.

Thesis – Justification – Support

This is the rhetoric used by Bray et al.

Thesis – the main concept or idea that you are proposing

Justification – the reasons why your thesis is valid

Support – evidence that backs up your justification

Essay structure – your introduction, main body, and conclusion

Box: An example

The Thesis – Justification – Support rhetoric can be applied to an individual paragraph of an essay, or on an entire essay. For example, take the essay question:

‘The accumulation of capital is sufficient for ensuring sustainable growth in per capita living standards’. Discuss.

One possible answer would be:

Thesis: if we define capital as physical capital, the accumulation of capital will lead to diminishing returns

Justification: Demonstration of the Solow model: capital accumulation can result in higher levels of income but after a certain level not higher levels of consumption per capita (due to diminishing marginal returns).

Support: examples, such as India’s heavy investment drive in the 1950s, 1960s which was associated with low levels of ‘Hindu growth’; or econometric evidence, such as that from Mankiw, Romer and Weil (1992), which supports some of the conclusions of the Solow model (but also suggests improvements, see below).

The next section of the essay would play with the assumptions of the Solow model – for example by expanding our definition of capital to include human capital (and, if you’re really trying to impress, social capital and ‘natural’ capital as well).

You might also want to discuss if technological progress (the source of per capita income growth in the Solow model) is related to capital accumulation, for example through ‘learning by doing‘ (Arrow, 1962)