Ritically discuss the arguments for free trade, paying attention to winners and losers.
WRITING ESSAYS IN POLITICAL ECONOMY
An essay is an exercise in individual expression, and the following comments should not be taken as describing an idealised a?blueprinta?. Rather, they are aimed at specifying some general objectives and conventions which should be borne in mind when preparing essays. Within this framework there remains considerable scope for the development of your own personal style.
2. PREPARATORY READING
Preparing an essay is a research task. It cannot be done by relying only on the material in the textbooks. It is also expected that University essays will show more sophistication than work done in secondary school. You should not be satisfied with high school texts as reference sources.
It is normal to read some journal articles and/or chapters from books before writing an essay. Sometimes references will be suggested by lecturers concerned. On other occasions no references will be specified, in which case a starting-point could be the suggestions for supplementary readings in the course handouts. The important point to emphasise here is that on all occasions you should browse through the library for potentially relevant material. Thus, even when some references are suggested, it is best to look for other sources. Otherwise your essay is likely to be a dull affair, of little interest either to you or others reading it.
In hunting out material, the obvious procedure is to consult the on-line catalogue in the library by subject and keyword. Reference can also be made to an index such as The Journal of Economic Literature (in hard copy or on CD Rom), and the Australian Public Affairs Information Service (APAIS, also in hard copy and on CD Rom). While the use of newspaper articles (at least from the a?quality pressa e.g. The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review) is legitimate, such references should be used sparingly and mainly to complement academic sources. Likewise information from the Web (see later section 15). Books and journal articles should be the principal sources for researching your essay.
You should remember that your own judgement is of crucial importance: time spent developing this (e.g. in conversation with friends) is usually time very well spent.
3. WRITING A DRAFT
There are various opinions about the best method of synthesising your own views with the knowledge culled from reading the works of other authors. Some contend that you should not begin writing the essay until you have read and taken notes on a number of books and articles. Others contend that you should write an early draft, then read further books and articles, and modify the earlier draft in the light of this reading. Which method is best depends on the nature of the topic and your familiarity with it, and partly on personal preference. However, it is generally a good idea to begin fairly early in writing a draft or at least an outline structure of the essay. This process forces you to develop your ideas and a conceptual framework. Further reading can then be interpreted in the light of your framework. Your framework can be modified if necessary. If you read too many references at first, assimilation and coordination of ideas becomes very difficult, and you may end up with an essay full of disconnected points.
4. RELEV ANCE
i??Of course, an essay should be relevant to the topic set. Equally important, it should be demonstrated to be relevant, in the sense that the analysis must be explicitly applied to be specified question. Particularly undesirable is the tendency of some students to see a particular phase in the question (such as a?monetary policya? or a?enterprise bargaininga?) and then to write down everything they know on the subject.
An essay ought not to be merely a summary of ideas from a handful of references. In particular an essay should not be constructed around a series of quotations from previous authors, even if the quotations are acknowledged. It is your essay and it should be based on your assessment of the topic in question. Regarded in this light, quotations from other works should be introduced only as supplementary evidence to illustrate your research and analysis.
6. ORGANISA TION
Clear and logical organisation is a characteristic of every good essay. An unsystematic presentation suggests you are not capable of arranging your thoughts in an orderly fashion. Conversely, a well organised answer suggest the ability to deal systematically with the topic. This would probably involve sub-sections (perhaps with sub-headings), emphasising the key points and their relationship. Many students fail to carry out this relatively simple yet productive step, and they lose marks unnecessarily.
A well organised essay might take the following form:
(a) Introduction. Essay topics are often open to several interpretations so it is useful to give an indication of the approach you are taking at the outset. This will largely determine the balance of the essay and will help to demonstrate the relevance of the subsequent argument. The introduction should alert readers to the path along which you will be taking them. The emphasis should be on a?scene-settinga and on raising the key issues rather than on your conclusions.
(b) The main body of the essay. Here the principal emphasis should be on the systematic development of the argument and consideration of counter-arguments. On almost every topic there are a number of different views; it is best to consider the various alternatives at an early stage of the essay and to outline their relative strengths and weaknesses. On topics which are amenable to empirical investigation, it is normal to summarise the existing evidence and consider how much support it lends to the proposition(s) you are advancing. Depending on the nature of the topic, you may have some new arguments or evidence to contribute yourself.
(c) Conclusion. It is normal to bring the various strands of argument together in a brief conclusion in order to round off the essay. (Of course, you may conclude that the balance of argument and evidence prohibits a clear conclusion).
i??Confine each paragraph to a single idea but not so narrowly that paragraphs become one or two sentences. For example, the single idea might be a?Expansionary fiscal policy can help to reduce unemploymenta?. The paragraph would go on to say what fiscal policy is, why it might generate jobs and what obstacles may need to be faced.
A useful exercise, when you have finished the first draft of an essay, is to see if each paragraph can be summarised by one sentence and that they form a clear sequence for the whole essay. If not, some reconstruction of the essay is probably needed.
A maximum length will normally be specified. This is not only to make the task of the marker manageable, but also to provide practice in writing concisely. You should not exceed that length.
9. GRAMMAR, PUNCTUATION AND STYLE
Proper grammatical construction and careful punctuation is essential for an effective essay. This requirement takes time. It will usually mean rewriting and checking of sequential essay drafts in order to get a carefully polished final version.
It is also important to develop your own clear and effective means of expression. This inevitably involves some emulation of that which you read, but the process should be critical and selective. Above all, express your points as simply as possible. Split up unnecessarily long sentences into shorter ones. For example, instead of saying a?howevera in the middle of a sentence, use it to begin a new sentence.
10. CITATION, PARAPHRASE AND PLAGIARISM
Your essay is likely to draw on empirical evidence or particular arguments developed by other people (e.g. a?J.M. Keynes emphasised that profit expectations are volatilea?). In all of these cases you must clearly cite the source you have used (see section 14 on bibliographical methods).
A related matter concerns methods of paraphrase. Paraphrase is the process of summarising arguments you have read in books and articles. Many s