Several departments at Yale provide amazing structured support for their students writing senior essays. Environmental Studies provides a detailed Senior Essay Handbook as well as a full year colloquium where students get support for developing research questions, writing, discussing and presenting. In Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, students do a junior seminar on theory and methods followed by a full year senior colloquium that focuses on writing an excellent senior essay.
Economics has taken a very different approach: We rely heavily on each student’s thesis advisor to be a subject matter expert and provide guidance on the research process, and we rely on our coursework to provide students with the research methods and broad substantive background they need. For many (if not most) students this approach works well, but this year we wanted to provide additional support for students who need more as well as those who have chosen particularly challenging topics.
We have set up an online discussion board (hosted on Piazza) where students writing essays will post questions and issues as they come up. We hope they will also use the board to make connections with students working in similar areas.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the project is that we are doing it jointly with students and faculty in the Economics Department at University College London. Faculty at both locations (including me, Parama Chaudhury, Christian Spielman, and Frank Witte) will be monitoring the forums daily to respond to questions in our areas of expertise. We will also be passing students’ questions along to our faculty that specialize in other areas. I can’t wait to see our students share ideas across the pond.
We launched the site this week and to be honest, it hasn’t been an instant success: We’re still waiting for our first student post! BUT, these are the early days and I think when deadlines start staring students in the face, they will appreciate having someplace to go for help. I’ll be sure to report on how it’s going as we move through the academic year.