The research questionTo demonstrate your scientific competence you have to find a good research question:
A main focus of the chair is experimental economics. Your research question will relate to experimental economics or game theory (see question 1 below). Your question should be interesting (see question 5 below).
Current research can be inspiring. Read, e.g., current issues of Econometrica, American Economic Review, Review of Economic Studies, etc. and find out what researchers are currently discussing (not all articles in these journals deal with experiments.) If you have the feeling that the current discussion leaves questions aside then you might have a starting point.
Alternatively you can look at current experiments. Read the journal Experimental Economics and look for improvements in the experiments that are presented there. You can also take a look at the websites of the GfeW or esa who organize conferences on experimental economics. There you will find abstracts of current research. More details can be found on the websites of the respective authors. Use these opportunities to inspire your research. It is often possible to combine two research ideas to a new research question.
Please make sure that your research question clearly relates to the existing experimental literature (see also point 2 below). Many students start from too ambitious, too complicated problems. We can't do this in the available time.
- What do we know about answers to your question?
How have similar questions already been discussed in
the literature? Which gap do you want to close with your study?
Visit the library to answer this question, use your favourite search engine, have a look at related papers you find at the IDEAS/RepEC database. If your question has already been answered, please find a new question.
Your research question is usually one sentence, and it is actually a question, i.e. it ends with a question mark. Keep in mind: “The efficiency of mechanisms” is not a question. “Is the ABC mechanism more efficient than the DEF mechanism?” is a question. Ask yourselves: why an answer to this question is relevant for economics (i.e. why does an answer eventually help increase efficiency, reduce inequality, improve stability, etc.).
Include, if possible, approaches from other fields of economics (e.g. field data, theory).
You should find at least one publication from a well ranked journal in economics which raises a similar question. Keep in mind: In your project you have to cover the entire distance between what science knows today and the issue you want to investigate. If the distance between the literature you can find and your research question is too large, you will have too much work to do. If you find references only in other journals, chances are that your topic is not really relevant for economics (the topic might still be relevant for other fields, but your project should be in economics).
- What alternative possibilities (experimental, theoretical, field data), different from your approach, does one have to find an answer to your question?
Include approaches from all fields of economics (field data, theory, experiments). Your summary should not be longer than 100 words. Present what you know in a structured way. “While Smith makes a theoretical argument, Miller presents some field data. Additional insight could be gained from a laboratory experiment which studies the influence of GHI on ABC and DEF as follows. If participants with similar GHI levels play both mechanisms in random order...”
- What are the details of your approach?
Think about the cornerstones of your approach. “In contrast to the approach of Frank (2004), who just randomizes over different GHI levels, I plan to manipulate GHI with the help of a pre-experimental stimulus as follows...”
- What are advantages and disadvantages of your approach
(compared to theory, field data, experiments)?
Explain why your approach is more suitable. Again, your summary should not be longer than 100 words. If you find that your approach has more disadvantages than advantages, please change your approach or move to a different question.
- Is it possible that your approach yields a surprising answer?
Here briefly explain why and how different outcomes are possible. “Smith (2001) comes to the conclusion that GHI should affect positively the performance of ABC. If this is the case, ABC should have a clear advantage over DEF. The evidence of Miller (2002) suggests that GHI can also have a negative impact. Then DEF has a chance to outperform ABC...”.
If you conclude that your question can't have a surprising answer, please find a different question.
- Is this the simplest possible way to answer your question?
Please go through all aspects of your approach, e.g. the number of treatments in an experiment, the number of players, etc., and explain why a smaller number of treatments, a smaller number of player types, a simpler game, etc., does not allow to answer your question. If your approach is not the most simple approach, make it more simple.
- Given the restrictions for the size of your study it may not be possible to perform all steps (preparation of an experiment, development, implementation, running the experiment, analysis of the data) of your approach in the available time. A scientific project can concentrate on a subset of these steps, e.g. mainly present an interesting design for an experiment and only briefly discuss details of the implementation and analysis of the data. Be realistic — you can never explain the world in a single scientific project. Make clear in your project what you plan to do and what you have to leave out. Here are some ideas how you could structure your experimental project..