Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Research is of great importance to the School of Economics, and this starts right from undergraduate level.
Whether or not a student plans to pursue a career in academia, the skills gained through undertaking research are precisely those that many employers want to see in their future workforce; skills such as critical thinking, data analysis, project management, time management, writing and presentation skills.
Throughout the degree programme, students deal with the research work of academics, increasingly so as the degree progresses, with the school's specialist modules being research-led and taught by active researchers in the relevant field of economics.
In years one and two, fundamental economic research methods are developed through the learning of econometrics, enabling students to properly handle economic data and investigate economic models and relationships.
In years two and three, many of the school's optional modules involve group projects, where research is undertaken by students in small groups, and presentational skills are developed as the work is presented to other students studying the module.
In year three, most students complete a dissertation, where students undertake independent research in an area of their choosing, applying economic analysis to a specific research question. The dissertation allows the opportunity for skills learnt earlier in the degree programme to be applied, and also gives the opportunity to develop further research skills which are highly transferable in students' future careers.
The dissertation module is a double weighted (30 credits) year-long module which is compulsory for most economics students in their final year.* The purpose of the dissertation is for students to demonstrate familiarity with a particular area of economics and apply economic analysis to address a specific research question (or questions). In many cases, this will be a piece of empirical or theoretical analysis, applying techniques students have acquired over their degree programme to look in depth at a specific issue. The final dissertation is submitted after the Easter break and has a word limit of 7,500 words.
Why write a dissertation?
- It gives students an insight into how knowledge is generated in economics
- It provides a chance to apply economic theories and/or econometric techniques to real world problems
- It allows students to study a topic of interest in depth
- The transferable skills it assesses may be more useful our students' future careers than those required to pass exams (for example, project time management skills)
- It gives more scope for creativity and provides a chance for the best students to excel
- In recognition of the above, external examiners (and masters recruiters) tend to give it a high weight in their decisions
- Students will produce a serious piece of work that may be a useful part of their portfolio
- The knowledge gained may be a useful talking point in job interviews or masters applications.
* Students taking Politics and Economics, Economics and Philosophy or Philosophy, Politics and Economics do not take the economics dissertation.
Dissertation support and preparation within the curriculum
Throughout their degree, students will receive teaching on modules will that help develop their skills, knowledge and confidence in research, in preparation for the final year dissertation. Some examples of these modules** can be found below:
Year one: Skills for Economists
The aim of this module is to facilitate the transition from school to university by providing guidance for effective study and learning, including developing students' confidence in the skills required for effective research and essay writing. Topics covered include understanding and avoiding academic misconduct and plagiarism, accessing learning resources, good essay technique and proper referencing in academic writing.
Year two: Applied Econometrics/Econometric Theory
These modules introduce students to the principles, uses and interpretation of regression analysis most commonly employed in applied economics. They provide students with sufficient knowledge of regression methods to critically evaluate and interpret published empirical research, and undertake empirical analyses using specialist econometric software (STATA). As part of this module, students will deepen their understanding of the material covered via a series of 'hands-on' computer classes using STATA.
As students move into their final year, they receive a range of specific support as part of the dissertation module:
Students attend a series of seminars at the start of final year designed to provide guidance on choosing a suitable dissertation topic and facilitate brainstorming ideas with tutors and peers. Students are required to write a draft proposal and present this (and any preliminary research) in small groups in order to gain feedback.
Students attend computer classes on data analysis and applied econometrics, and have the opportunity to utilise individual drop-in clinics to support the use of software such as STATA and Eviews.
Once a topic has been chosen, students are allocated a supervisor. Where possible, the supervisor will be a staff member who works in a related field, although staffing constraints mean this may not be possible in all cases. Though the dissertation is essentially an exercise in independent study, the role of the supervisor is to provide advice and guidance, and ensure that students know the level to which they must work. This support takes the form of three meetings throughout the dissertation year.
At the start of semester one and two in the final year, students attend two weekly dissertation lectures covering topics such as finding and collecting economic data, integrating findings from empirical studies, analysing existing experimental data, exploratory data analysis and organising an empirical dissertation. They also explore a range of advanced themes such as visualising regression models, panel data modelling, vector autoregressive models, instrumental variables estimation and limited dependent variables models.
Extra research support
Our Library has a dedicated Teaching and Learning team whose role it is to support students in gaining the skills they need throughout their degree, including those required for research and dissertation writing. This support is designed to compliment that provided by the academic school, and is delivered through various lectures, workshops and online resources. Some of these are available for students to attend or access on demand, whilst others are arranged via module tutors who bring staff from the Teaching and Learning team in to class to deliver relevant training.
Topics covered by the Library include:
- Finding a question and writing a proposal
- Methodology issues
- Creative and critical thinking
- Developing as a writer
- Referencing and citing
Library staff can also assist with finding the books and resources students need for their research; they offer the opportunity for students to request titles that are not currently in stock, or where more copies may be needed, via the NUsearch system that all students have access to.
Recognition of research excellence
In recognition of the exceptional work produced by our undergraduate students each year, the school awards a number of best dissertation and essay prizes at the annual graduation reception. Students are also encouraged to submit their work to journals, conferences and prizes such as the Berkeley Economic Review and the IAES Best Undergraduate Paper Competition.
Success includes Chiara Peluso, who came joint second in the UK data service dissertation prize.
The Nottingham Economic Review (NER) is a student run annual journal whose purpose is to showcase undergraduate research and promote ongoing advancements in economic thought. The NER team gather submissions and publish those that they believe contain the most thought provoking and insightful arguments while simultaneously capturing the interest of readers. The journal also contains a section dedicated to features and editorials concerning current affairs alongside interviews and Q&A sessions.
View some examples of our students' excellent research dissertations.
Research internships in the school
The School of Economics offers undergraduate students to opportunity to become involved in research activities by undertaking occasional internships supporting staff members within the school. These short-term assignments might involve assisting with data analysis, data collection, data inputting or web editing in connection with a current research project.
** The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. They may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.