Writing Tips for Ph Students by jolinmilioncherie


									  • Always put your contact info on the front page so that people can
  find your paper and send you comments

        Writing Tips for Ph. D.
  • It’s the 21st century — get a web page. If your paper is ready for a
  faculty member to read it, it should be on your webpage.

  • Put the date on the Students if they are reading a
                        paper so people know
  new version.
                  John H. Cochrane
             Graduate School of Business
                University of Chicago
                 5807 S. Woodlawn
                  Chicago IL 60637.
                    773 702 3059.
                     June 8, 2005
What is your contribution
• Figure out the oneGood Exampleand novel
                             Bad Example
  contribution of your paper
            “I French 1992 start their abstract with: “Two
     Fama and analyzed data on executive compensation easily
• Write it and found insizeinteresting results.” equity, combine to
             down many and book-to-market
     measured variables, one paragraph

• It must becross-sectional variation in average stock returns
     capture the concrete
     associated with market β, size, leverage, book-to-market equity,
• Explain what the central results are
     and earnings-price ratios.”
Know your readers
• Your readers are busy and impatient
• No reader will ever read the whole thing from
  start to finish
• Readers skim
• You have to make it easy for them to skim.
• Most readers want to know your basic result
• Only a few care how it is different from others
• Only a few care if it holds up with different
  variable definitions, different instrument sets, etc
• Organize the paper in “triangular” or
  “newspaper” style, not in “joke” or “novel”
                 1           Start by the main contribution
                                      or findings

                                      Then fill in background later for
                                      the readers who kept going
                                      and want more details.

  “triangular” or “newspaper” style
• Most journals allow 100-150 words. Obey this
  limit now
• The main function of the abstract is to
  communicate the one central and novel
  contribution out
• You should not mention other literature in the
• Abstract must be concrete. Say what you find,
  not what you look for
• Don’t write “data are analyzed, theorems are
  proved, discussion is made..”
• The introduction should start with what you
  do in this paper, the major contribution
                             Good Example

         just state that theconclusion. Give the
• Don’t“My results showyour Example
                             Bad pecking-order theory is
        rejected. In a regression of x on y, controlling for z,
        the coefficient is result
  fact behind that q.” that the pecking-order
               “My results show
                          theory is rejected.”
• You must explain your contribution so that
  people can understand it
                                              Good Example

                                   The Anatomy of Value and
                                     Growth Stock Returns
                              Eugene F. Fama and Kenneth R. French
Value stocks (those with low ratios of price to book value) have higher average returns than growth stocks (high
P/Bs). Our goal is a better understanding of the sources of this value premium in returns. The one-period
    • The first sentence is the hardest
simple return on a stock from t to t + 1 (Rt+1) is commonly broken into a dividend return (Dt+1/Pt) and a capital
gain return (Pt+1/Pt):

    • Do not start with philosophy                      Bad Example

    • initial tests, we breakefficient.” return intointerestingthe growth rate ofofbook equity,
                                                          two pieces. The first is on its
         Your paper must be growth stocks, we examine if sourcesown,
                         “Financial economists
To better understand the average returns of value and have long wonderedthe marketscapital gain.
In our
                         are   the capital gain
primarily from earnings retention. Capital gains from earnings retention follow from the dividend irrelevance
         and and Modigliani (1961). Specifically, an
theorem of Miller not just because lots of other people
                         “The finance literature has long been interested result
additional dollar of time t + 1 earnings retained rather than distributed as dividends shouldin x.”in an
         wasted valuethe growth rate of book equity (Bt+1/Bt) out of the capital gain return (Pt+1/Pt)
additional dollar of capitalspace on the subject
                                   for old
shareholders at t + 1. Breaking

    • Do not start with a long motivation of
leaves the growth rate of the price-to-book
ratio (that is, Pt+1/Bt+1 ÷ Pt/Bt) as the remaining (multiplicative) piece of the capital gain return:

    • how important the issue is to public policy
    • Start with your central contribution
• Three pages is a good alternativelimit for the
                               Another upper
                               The Anatomy of Value and
  introduction Eugene Growth Stock Returns French
                                 F. Fama and Kenneth R.
• I don’t write a “roadmap” paragraph: “Section 2
  setsstory proceeds as follows. We first discuss what motivates the
          out the model, section 3 discusses
  identification, section 4 gives the main results,
    breakdown of returns into dividends and capital gains from growth in
    book equity checks P/B, and we address section 6
  section 5and growth infor robustness,estimation issues.
  concludes.” estimates of the breakdown for value and growth
    We then present
• Itportfolios. Finally, we examinespace; detailed breakdownfigure it
     seems a waste of the more readers will of capital
    gain returns they get there
  out when that splits growth in P/B between convergence and drift.
• And I save a paragraph against the editor’s page
• Make your own mind up about this question; but
  realize it’s not mandatory
Literature Review
• Do not start your introduction with a page
          Remember, it will be very hard for people to
          half of other literature
  and a understand how your paper is different from
• First explain your contribution, then you
          others’ given that they don’t understand
          your paper yet, and most
  can write a brief literatureof them have not
          read the other papers.
• Make it a separate section of otherwise set
  it off so people can skip it who aren’t
Literature Review
• Be generous in your citations  Good Example
                                 The Anatomy of Value and

• It is not necessary to cite every single
                                   Growth Stock Returns
                            Eugene F. Fama and Kenneth R. French

         The the literature
  paper inrational view of asset pricing outlined above has a well-
         known competitor. Behaviorists such as Lakonishok, Shleifer,
• The mainrelative to growth stocks stem from irrational pricing. value
                 point argue that the higher average returns of Their
         and Vishny (1994)of the literature review
  should be to set your paper off against the
         story centers on convergence.

  2 or 3 closest current papers,
• And to give proper credit to people who
  deserve priority for things that might
  otherwise seem new in your paper.
Literature Review
• Some people worry a lot about strategic
  citations; choosing citations to hint to
  editors who they should assign as referees
  and adding loads of citations to make sure
  referees see themselves.
• Whatever one thinks of these practices,
  we can agree you should get rid of all the
  fluff in the final version
Body of the paper
• Your task now is to get to the central result
  as fast as possible Bad Example
• Most papers dolong motivation, a long literature review, a big
          They have a precisely the opposite
              complex model that then gets ignored, descriptive statistics,
              preliminary results, a side discussion or two and then finally
              Table 12 of “main estimates.”

              And by then we’re all
Body of the paper
• Here’s the rule: There should be nothing
  before the main result that a reader does
  not need to know in order to understand
  the main result.
• In most papers, the “main result” is
• The theory is there to help understand the
  empirical work
• the theory must be the minimum required
  for the reader to understand the empirical
Empirical work
• Start with the main result.
• Follow the main result with graphs and
  tables that give intuition, showing how the
  main result is a robust feature of compelling
  stylized facts in the data
• Follow that with limited responses to
  potential criticisms and robustness checks
• Most of those should end up in your
• Conclusions should be short and sweet
• Do not restate all of your findings
• You can include a short paragraph or two
  acknowledging limitations, suggesting
  implications beyond those in the paper
• And don’t speculate; the reader wants to
  know your facts not your opinions.
• Really, a conclusions section should not be
  necessary. If you did a good job of explaining
  your contribution in understandable prose in
  the introduction, and then documenting those
  claims in the body of the paper, (writing in good
  triangular style), then saying it all over again is
  pointless. “I tried omitting the conclusions section a few times,
  though, and this was too radical for editors and referees. It is true that
  some people skip to the conclusion to look for the main result, but
  that’s because they are used to authors who don’t explain it well
  enough in the introduction”
  Example The Anatomy of Value and Growth Stock
  Returns paper of Eugene F. Fama and Kenneth R. French

To top