Senior Seminar for Economics (ECON 4960)

Offered at California State University, Stanislaus by Economics Dept., Spring 2013, for 3 units.  Class meets Wednesdays 6-8:40pm in C136.



 Elaine Peterson 

 Office hours:

M,W,F 10-11 am, &


 101 D Bizzini Hall


Tues. 5:15-6:15 pm

Office Phone:



Wed. 5-5:45 pm

Home Phone:

 529-3804 (Please, no calls after 8:00pm) 

 Thurs. 5-5:40 pm

Official Email:


 and also by appointment

For longer emails with attachments please use

Course Description: Reading and discussion in significant areas of economics; analysis of major contemporary economic problems, national and international. Prerequisite: Senior standing in economics. (SPRING) (Grading Option: Letter grade only)

Course Objectives: This is a "capstone course" for economics majors. The purpose of this course is to use the theoretical foundations and other material students have studied in the major subfields of economics for the analysis of current economic problems and policy issues. Practicing key economic skills in a collegial environment reinforces students’ abilities and facilitates capable, independent life-long learning. Specifically:

·         Students will locate and use appropriate published economic data and research.

·         Students will demonstrate understanding of existing knowledge through oral and written

       communication and through group and individual work

·         Students will use their knowledge of economics to explore a policy debate.

·         Students will write a research paper.


Selected readings: Articles drawn from professional journals and news publications such as:

                        American Economic Review, Wall Street Journal, The Economist

Information obtainable from the Internet via sites such as: 


Resources for Economists on the Internet  


Government Printing Office Federal Digital System 


Economic Report of the President, 2013 (ERP) as soon as available via


Economic Report of the President, past editions


Some links to interesting materials are on the course web page for this class

If you find articles or information you consider of interest to your colleagues in the class, please feel free to share them either in class or via the class discussion list.  


Class participation 



Leadoff of class discussion 



Short assignments 









Research Paper



Class Participation:  The seminar format means that student research, presentations, and class discussions predominate. Each class offers an opportunity to cover a substantial amount of material thus attendance is particularly important.  Students who must miss a class should contact the instructor in advance or as soon as possible and may have an opportunity to make up work.  Attendance will affect the class participation portion of the grade. Note: Excessive absences may make completion of the course infeasible.  Reading should be done prior to class discussion to enable thoughtful informed participation. WASC accreditation standards indicate that for every hour in class students should be spending 2 to 3 hours studying.  Thus, for a class that meets 3 hours per week, such as this one, you should be studying 6 to 9 hours outside of class as well.  Please plan your time accordingly and try to use it efficiently.  For example, if you do not understand something make a note of it and bring it up in class as soon as possible.  Even if you do not have an explicit written assignment to hand in you always have reading to do and think about.  Some of the reading relating to the material we will be discussing in each class is indicated in the schedule below.  When you are in class I would like you to actively try to engage your mind in the class.  This includes thinking about the topic at hand, respectfully listening to your colleagues’ comments and questions, and offering your thoughtful comments and questions on the topic we are discussing.  Also please turn off beepers and cell phones.


Email: Any changes to the schedule below will be announced in class or via email.  Email is a relatively efficient way to distribute information and is part of our current economic environment. Students should join the email discussion list for this class as another way to participate and increase their learning experience. Please check your email regularly.  To join the discussion list you may submit your email address to the professor in writing or by sending an email message with your email address, your name, and the name of the class to the professor at EPETERSON@CSUSTAN.EDU.  If you do not yet have an email account, you are entitled to one as a student at CSU Stanislaus.  To get one go to the OIT office, room 130 in the Library Building.  In all email messages please try to remember to indicate your full name, the name of the class, and a subject heading.  Including this basic information helps people know if they want to read your message. There are a lot of junk emails, viruses, and worms going around.   If your message is missing such information it may be deleted without being read.  Also keep in mind that most people are very reluctant to open attachments.  So please try to send your message as a text only message unless there is a compelling reason you need to use an attachment.  It is generally better to send a link to an interesting article or video than a long attachment.


Blackboard access: At you can use your student email and password to login and get into web pages restricted to students in the class. 


Leadoff of class discussion: Each student should work in a small group of 2-4 students to leadoff a class discussion of material from the Economic Report of the President at least once during the semester.  They should discuss the reading in some detail and bring up any points they found particularly interesting, worth discussing in more detail, on which they have comments, or about which they have questions, or have found appropriate related or conflicting information.  Students in these groups are required to coordinate their activities and their discussion in advance and during the discussion. Grading will be based on the thoroughness, clarity, and apparent reflection on the ideas at hand, interrelationships shown between presenters, and co-ordination of efforts. The groups will usually be allowed to use most of the class time.  If a student helps leadoff more than one class discussion the higher grade will be counted for the leadoff portion of their overall grade and the extra activity will be taken into consideration in the class participation portion of their grade.

Short assignments: Short assignments may be announced in class or via email. These may include assignments such as questionnaires, short writing assignments, research progress reports, and written reviews of class presentations. Several are listed in the schedule below, but more may be added.  All students should check their email regularly and should subscribe to the class discussion list. Any necessary changes to the schedule below will also be announced in class or via email.

Participation in class debate:  Many economic issues that we will discuss are controversial and can be viewed from multiple perspectives. Near the end of the semester the class will be asked to choose one of these topics for debate. A key viewpoint will be expressed as a statement.  Then "pro" and "con" teams will be formed. Students should be willing to think about and prepare economic arguments on either side. Even if you disagree with a particular viewpoint you should be able to understand how it might be expressed and what the key arguments are for that viewpoint. It is desirable to have approximately equal size teams. You should coordinate with your team regarding preparing arguments. Active participants in the debate will receive credit toward their grade. A coin toss will be used to determine which side should begin. Each team member will have approximately 5 minutes to speak. After initial arguments by both sides time will also be allowed for rebuttals.

Preliminary report on research paper: In many professions it is common to require the topic of a paper or proposed project be submitted before the paper is written or project undertaken. For example proposals must be submitted before funding is approved. Similarly in this class students are required to submit in writing a preliminary report on their research paper topic. The report should include full citations for some of the sources that will be used. The topic must be approved by the instructor.  In the interests of avoiding redundancy in student presentations, multiple students will not be allowed to cover overly similar topics. If more than one student chooses essentially the same topic the first to submit in writing the preliminary report with adequate specific citations will be approved. (Note due date in schedule below.)

Presentation: One of the most common ways ideas are currently developed and disseminated is through discussion and presentation. In this class students are required to present their term paper or project work to their classmates. The presentation should briefly cover the motivation for the work, the essential information gathered, and the analysis or assessment of the information. Since time for presentations will be limited students are advised to plan their presentations carefully. Students should feel free to use any visual aids they feel will facilitate understanding of their presentation such as PowerPoint, overheads, or handouts. These can be particularly helpful if you are nervous. Grading of presentations will be based on organization, thoroughness, clarity, apparent thought on material as well as timing and handling of class comments and questions.

Research Paper: Choosing an interesting feasible topic is one of the parts of writing that most people find difficult. Therefore, you should probably start thinking about what you might like to write about immediately. Once you have a few ideas you should try to determine if they are feasible given the time available, the page guidelines, and the resources you have available. Frequently you may start with a broad area in which you are interested.  Then as you learn more about the topic, you can narrow what you will write about to a particular aspect, question, group of people, or time frame. Your topic should clearly tie to a contemporary economic issue.  Some people find looking through journals and/or editorials a good way to start to stimulate topic ideas.  Sometimes thinking about what’s missing in major public documents such as the ERP may stimulate ideas, but be sure you can find information on your topic.

Some of you may also find the library’s website of “How To” research guides helpful

Your paper should briefly summarize key ideas or interpretations of economists in the field relevant to your topic and then analyze the issues involved from an economic perspective.  You may propose a way to resolve a key aspect of the issue.  Many topics to be explored well will require some mathematical or other quantitative analysis.  

If any part of the research involves gathering new human subject data (examples include surveys or interviews) then you need your research plan approved by UIRB before you gather your data.  Please visit for more information on this topic.

Your final paper should be about 10-15 double spaced pages, plus a title page with an abstract and page(s) listing full citations for your references. All sources should be cited. Be careful to use your own words. Please use a 12 point font, one inch margins, and number your pages. If you choose to quote anyone keep in mind that you need to include quotation marks in addition to citing the source of the general information. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the course.

Students are strongly encouraged to visit the writing center in room 112 of Library building. You can go in person to make an appointment or call 667-3465. They usually need a couple of days to give a reasonable response, but also have some drop in hours. Keep in mind in a private setting these services would generally cost $10-$25 an hour, yet here you can receive them at no additional cost other than your time if you sign up.  You are also welcome to submit preliminary drafts to me prior to the due dates for comments.

Students may also discuss their papers together and give each other helpful comments on their papers. If you receive substantial help from another student in the class you should cite them in your paper. In the economics field professional recognition is given for frequent citation, similarly if your paper is good they will be given extra credit towards the class participation portion of their grade.


Be sure your paper has basic required elements before you turn it in such as:

Your name

Paper Title



Relates to a contemporary economic issue

Includes your analysis from an economic perspective

Appropriate use of quantitative skills


Please submit a copy electronically to BlackBoard where it will be scanned by and compared to many sources available on the internet for plagiarism. An advantage of this approach is that you should be able to see the report from  If you submit your paper early to this program and find an unintended omission of quotation marks you can correct the problem and resubmit your paper overwriting the original submission.  It also may help make you aware if you have a tendency to over use quotes.  To submit the electronic copy of your paper, go to  Login using your CSU Stanislaus email login and password. Select the course Senior Seminar.  On the left hand side select Assignments. Then select View/Complete. Enter the fields and upload your paper.

After you have finalized your paper and submitted it to BlackBoard, please also submit a final paper copy to Dr. Peterson.


Your paper MUST include references. The key concept in citing references is to give sufficient information so that the lazy reader can very easily find the information that you are using for your paper.  For more guidance visit


In particular keep in mind that in formal papers a web address alone is not considered a full citation.  For more advice on citing web sources you may wish to visit: Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck, Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications), Dec, 2010,

Some examples of acceptable citation formats include:

Fogel, Robert, "Robert William Fogel – Autobiography,", 1993,, accessed Jan. 27, 2011


Jonathan Hughes and Louis P. Cain, "Chapter 10: The Debate Over Slavery," American Economic History, 6th ed., Harper Collins, 2003, p. 182-199.


  Senior Seminar for Economics (ECON 4960)  Spring 2013 Schedule




W Jan. 30

Introduction. What Are Some of the Big Economic Issues We Face?

Areas of growing research? The Research Process and Research tools. Checkout RFE, ERP, Federal Budget, EconLit, AEA.  Discuss goals.
Short Assignment 1 survey in class  &  email for class discussion list


W Feb 6

Short Assignment 2 Due: Create an annotated list of “Useful or cool features or links from RFE”

What are the differences between economics journals and the popular press?  The Research Process and Research tools. What goes into leading a good class discussion?

W Feb 13

Short Assignment 3 Due: Locate an interesting article in an economics journal or from a working paper archive, read it, and write an abstract.  Then in class on the Feb 13th summarize the article for your classmates in less than 5 minutes.

Individually selected economics journal article

W Feb 20

In class look at what topics are in the ERP2013, divide up ERP chapters to be discussed in later classes lead by small student groups

Short Assignment 4 Due: Preliminary report on research paper in writing and briefly orally in class

ERP 2013 Overview


W Feb 27

Selected Chapters of ERP 2013 Student Lead Discussion

Short assignment 5 Due: Create an annotated list of at least 5 “Important Economic Topics missing from the ERP 2013” 

ERP 2013


W Mar 6

Selected Chapters of ERP 2013 Student Lead Discussion

Short Assignment 6 Due: Paper Copy of Resume

(Short Assignment 7: within next 2 weeks meet with Dr. Peterson to discuss resume & then send an electronic copy of your resume to her via email to  Be sure to use your name as part of the filename to avoid files overwriting each other.  For example PetersonResume.doc is better than resume.doc)

ERP 2013

W Mar 13

Selected Chapters of ERP 2013 Student Lead Discussion

Short Assignment 8 Due: Outline for research paper

ERP 2013

W Mar 20

Selected Chapters of ERP 2013 Student Lead Discussion

Short assignment 9: Co-ordination of debate teams 

ERP 2013

W Mar 27

Selected Chapters of ERP 2013 Student Lead Discussion   

Debate teams caucus

ERP 2013

April  1- 5 Spring Break

W April 10

Selected Chapters of ERP 2013 Student Lead Discussion

Debate teams caucus

ERP 2013

W April 17

Class Debate


W April 24

Student Presentations

Review presentations 2 colleagues = Short Assignments 10 & 11

W May 1

Student Presentations

W May 8

Student Presentations 

W May 15

Student Presentations 

W May 22

Due: Economics Dept. Exit Survey (Short Assignment 12) & Research Paper

Submit research paper via BlackBoard & a paper copy. (If you would like your graded paper mailed to you please also include a stamped self-addressed envelope of sufficient size and postage to get it back to you.)  The Exit Survey will be available via an online link