The essay in Economics is an approximately 2,000 word document and forms 50% of your final mark.
The idea of having the essay (as opposed to, for example, an exam) is that it will allow you to engage
in a topic in Economics which interests you, and therefore, hopefully, you learn more about the
principles of economics. Remember the core principle of economics – the economic problem: there
are infinite wants but finite resources. Economics is the study of allocation, and specifically, the
allocation of resources which will generate the most utility (‘happiness’) in the world (or at least in a
With this in mind, a number of questions have been written over the range of topics we discuss in
Economics. There are two objectives with this range of questions: first, they offer a choice so that
you can pick that which actually interests you; and second, each question has a specific discipline in
mind. Therefore, if you are an advertising student you might want to undertake a question more
orientated to this than a question more orientated towards an accounting student, for example.
If anybody has any suggestions for other questions, please let me know. I feel as though I may write
more, but for sure I will not remove from the list below. Therefore, please feel free to get going
whenever you can.
Note, I may add to these, and am willing to do so if you have any suggestions; however, I will not
remove from the list below.
Answer one of the following:
Q1. Use economics principles to discuss the role and operation of marketing.
Q2. Apply the concept of diminishing marginal returns to workers: what are the conclusions that you
obtain from this with respect to employment practices? What role might training and development
have for this problem?
Q3. From a classical analysis, what is the impact of a minimum or living wage on unemployment?
What are the counterarguments against this, and, is it possible for a minimum wage to reduce
Q4. Apply the law of diminishing marginal returns to your studies, what is the implication of this
concept to how you should spread your self-study across the modules? What other influences might
change this conclusion?
Q5. Apply the concepts of consumer and producer surplus to university education. What innovations/additional resources would increase your consumer surplus? Why do you feel that they
are not currently provided?
Q6. Pick one of the following markets: Auditing (financial accounts); Banking; Energy firms. In your
opinion, what type of market structure do they operate in? What are the problems with this operation?
Q7. Discuss the statement ‘through demand management policies, the government does more harm
than good’. What innovations in macroeconomics have occurred in order to try and improve policy?
Additional questions on discussion with students (these questions are open to all)
Q8. Discuss how fiscal policy can be used to effect economic output, and within this framework
evaluate recent fiscal policy actions within a given country or countries.
Q9. Are there financial returns to higher education, and if so, why?
Q10. A few weeks ago, the UK Government released the “Operation Yellowhammer” files, which
among other matters states:
“Certain types of fresh food supply will decrease. Critical dependencies for the food supply chain (such as key input ingredients, chemicals and packaging) may be in shorter supply. In combination, these two factors will not cause an overall shortage of food in UK but will reduce availability and choice of products and will increase price, which could impact vulnerable groups.” Gov.uk.
By using the law of supply and demand and by illustrating your points with graphs, explain this
prediction for an increase in prices.
How will you be marked?
I include a marking scheme below and this provides detail as to what to expect in general essay
based assessments. For more guidance around this scheme, specifically I will be looking for the
• The use of economic analysis: remember this is an economics essay and therefore the economic analysis and economic principles should come first. This is most easily demonstrated either through using graphs (as they stand out quite well) or through specifically making reference to economic principles (for example, allocation, demand and supply, diminishing marginal returns, etc.). All essays should at least make reference to some point of the textbook.
• The use of external resources: although the economic concepts are meant to drive everything, using external resources adds weight and empirical reference to your arguments. What I am really looking for is an application by you to analysing a specific issue using economic principles, and using external resources is a good demonstration of this.
Remember that academia is really a skill of ‘standing on shoulders of giants’ by which it is meant that the first thing you should do is understand what others have said and think.
• Structure: make everything clear and concise and have a clear narrative. The best way to do this is to have a clear structure from the outset. Although not prescriptive, and this will depend on the question you undertake, you might think of a structure similar to the following:
o Application of textbook economic ideas
o Empirical observations and external resources
• Clarity of argument: in all your work, try and have one clear narrative running through your work. You do this by stating your argument in the introduction and then systematically returning to this throughout the main body. You may think that you are being clear and subtle, but often, this is not the case.
• There will also be 5 marks available for self-reflection. At the end of your essay (on the final page – after your references and any appendices you might have) you will be required to both give your essay a mark you would anticipate to receive and the reason for this. This is an exercise to engage and reflect on the quality of your work. Marks will be given for the depth of your reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of your essay and for how accurate these are. Note that the self-reflection does not contribute towards your word count.
I include some slides on referencing in the Blackboard. As with all assessments, the Harvard referencing style will be used. To give some general advice (to add to the slides attached in the
• Get a website you are happy with that tells you how to reference. A popular one nowadays is CiteThemRight (http://www.citethemrightonline.com/).
• Note that to cite something in the body of the text is different from your final references section. The idea is that you can read some general information in the body that does not upset the flow of the document [……., Smith (2014)] and then the interested reader can then go from that brief reference, to the references section to get the full details. With these, the reader can then go to the original source in order to see what this says. The idea is that there is a flow, or an ‘audit-trail’.
• All direct quotes should have ‘quotation marks’ and if you do a direct quote you should include page numbers of specifically where to find the direct quote.
• References of ideas (i.e. not a direct quote) do not need these page numbers but still need to be associated to where the idea comes from.
• The sign of a good essay is the size and diversity of the reference section. Those with the biggest reference section demonstrate they have done the most reading. However, only references one type of resource (e.g. websites) is not as good as referencing a variety of resources.