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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Perspective

In my last post, I mentioned that one of my writing students referred to the specification checks in the article we read as the authors 'making excuses'. Along similar lines, another student was in my office yesterday and mentioned that he didn't like the article we read very much because he thought it was really arrogant of the author to refer to his own earlier work. I tried to explain that this is actually quite common, that most economists write several papers on related subjects because good research can often raise as many new questions as it answers, which leads to new papers. In this particular case, the author (Dan Hammermesh) had done earlier work establishing an empirical link between beauty and wages, and then this paper was looking more closely at what might explain that connection. So citing the earlier work was part of establishing the relevance of this paper.

Again, it was just sort of fascinating to me how my students interpret things so differently because they are not familiar with the standard way that economists present their work. But it's also really good to be reminded of that different perspective. It's so easy for academics to forget the ways in which we think and work differently from everyone else, which can then reinforce negative stereotypes about academics among non-academics.  

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