Capstone Details

In their senior year, students will complete their capstone project. A capstone project is a two semester long in-depth study which culminates in a written essay and presentation.  The capstone project will be supported and structured through student participation in a research seminar series (with 10 MC total over the year).  This will not only allow students to proceed with their research in a structured, supportive and collaborative environment, but also facilitate their exposure to a broad variety of topic areas and research designs. This document is a general guide for students, and not a syllabus. Exact details will be confirmed by the teaching faculty at the point of enrollment in the semester prior to the start of the capstone/senior year.

The primary objective of the capstone is to develop and apply the skills required to write original research. It will provide experience that is particularly valuable for students interested in careers that require producing rather than just consuming economic analysis and/or those seeking to pursue graduate programmes (including economics, business, public policy, and international relations).

Students will use the skills they developed through coursework to design, research and write a paper on an economics topic of their own choosing. The thesis provides students with the opportunity to tackle larger and more ambitious topics than would typically be assigned in an undergraduate economics course. Applied topics are likely the most common, and many will make use of econometric techniques. However, more theoretical projects are also an option. Students are expected to develop a carefully reasoned exposition that critically analyses a problem using basic principles of economics. Given the variety of topics and techniques available, it is difficult to give an exact guideline on an appropriate length for these research papers, but a tentative maximum of 10,000 words could serve as a rough guideline. This limit should not be treated as a target as the paper will be graded based on its execution, not on its length.  Students with questions about the scale and scope of the question they wish to address are advised to seek input for the teaching faculty supervising their seminar group. All students conducting empirical work will submit their data and their Stata do-files to their supervisor with their final paper.

Students may choose from almost any topic in economics that is of interest to them, subject to the approval of the Capstone Module Coordinators (CMCs) supervising the research seminar. In the first week, each student will be matched with one Capstone Module Coordinator (CMC) as their Capstone Supervisor.  Support from other faculty members will be sought as necessary.  Each student must submit the capstone proposal form by the end of the second week.

To give a sense of the scope of possible topics, here are some sample topics:

(a) The role of information in financial markets (b) The effect of electoral rules on voting behavior (c) College choice and bounded rationality (d) The effect of malaria on economic development (e) Eurozone crisis and its impact on the world economy (f) Critical analysis of media reports on economic events (g) The evolution of marriage markets in Southeast Asia and its effect on children’s education and (h) Asian monetary union.

Students will undertake a new project for their capstone. The project should be original in its content and scope. Student submissions will be submitted to a plagurism detection device. If a student has a deep interest and makes a proposal for a significant expansion of the scale and scope of project the student has already written, then (s)he may approach the Head of Studies for special permission.

Completion of a research project will have two distinct phases:

Semester 1:  The first semester of the capstone project will involve participating in the Research Seminar organised by the Capstone Module Coordinators (CMCs). Early in that term, faculty will present a series of workshops on research methods – perhaps including how to proceed with research projects, tips on finding and using data, tips on using research resources, and a discussion of academic writing (plagiarism, citation, etc). Students find a topic of interest and specify an appropriate research question, explore the existing related literature, identify an appropriate research method to address the question, and learn how to apply empirical and theoretical skills acquired from their courses to the specific question. Each student will also be expected to give two presentations in the fall term: (1) an in-depth presentation on their area of research interest, and (2) a more specific presentation of their research proposal. Corresponding to these presentations, they will also submit written summaries of their literature review and research proposal.

Semester 2: The second semester of the capstone will continue this process. Students will continue to develop their proposals and carry out their projects, culminating in both a written paper and a presentation of their research results.    Students should meet with their supervisor at least once every two weeks.  They should provide all written materials at least 48 hours before each scheduled meeting, however they should note that supervisors are very busy and may require as much as two weeks to read a longer piece of writing.  All final papers should be properly formatted with a title page, abstract, acknowledgements, table of contents, list of tables, list of figures, introduction, conclusion and bibliography (and other sections as appropriate).

FAQs about Capstone in Economics


More Detailed Process:

Semester 1

Step 1: Students find a topic (broad area of study) and formulate a specific (and reasonable) research question · Example: Topic: Wage (income) inequality in Singapore. Research Question: Impact of influx of immigrant workers

Outcome 1: A written literature review and an in-depth seminar presentation on the literature to the seminar group.

Students will be assessed on the following criteria:  Is the topic interesting and important? Is it situated in the appropriate literature? Can the student handle their question in the time available?

Step 2: Students identify an appropriate research method to address their question. Is it an empirical question? Or a theoretical question? Study how the previous studies address similar questions. What kind of answer would be expected? Can it be handled in the given time frame?

Outcome 2: A written research proposal and its presentation to the seminar group.

Students will be assessed on the following criteria: Does the student have a clear vision how the research will proceed? Does the student propose appropriate methods to address the question? Can the student handle their question in the time available?

Proposal (written and presentation) 10%
Literature review (written and presentation) 5%
Participation 5%

Participation will be evaluated based on students’ participation in the seminar series – attending and participating in the faculty led research seminars and giving feedback and comments on other students’ presentations.

Successful completion of these components will be required to be given the grade of Satisfactory Progress for the first semester.

Semester 2

Step 3: Students find appropriate data (most will do some kind of empirical work). Describe the basic characteristics of the data. Students learn how to analyse the data to address their research question and find an empirical strategy (discussing previous studies or similar work).  Students doing theoretical work will submit the first draft of the model section of their paper, outlining their basic modeling approach. Students begin their analysis. Students use their data and obtain some preliminary results. They keep analysing their  model, data, and empirical methodology until they have something preliminary to say about their initial question.

Outcome 3: Extended Outline

Students will be assessed on the following criteria: Has the student acquired appropriate data? Is the model appropriate to the question posed? Have they identified and mastered necessary techniques? Is the student on track to achieve the overall goals of the capstone? Has the student developed and applied the skills required to write original research? Has the student developed a carefully reasoned exposition that critically analyses a problem using basic principles of economics? 

Step 4: Communication. Present the results in an oral presentation open to all economics faculty and interested students. Complete your paper.

Outcome 4: Final paper and presentation. (Tentative due date: end of week 11. Data and Stata do-files are due at the same time.)

Students will be assessed on the following criteria: Has the student developed and applied the skills required to write original research? Has the student developed a carefully reasoned exposition that critically analyses a problem using basic principles of economics? Has the student communicated these findings in a clear, professional manner?

Extended Outline 10%
Final oral presentation 10%
Final paper 60%

All final papers and presentations will be evaluated by two faculty members (normally the Capstone Module Coordinators (CMCs)), and the scores averaged for a final grade. If there is a dispute about the grading, the Head of Studies will appoint a third reader for the paper. Students will also be encouraged to take part in a self-evaluation process.  Students will also be encouraged to take part in the additional capstone presentations arranged through their residential colleges.

FAQs about Capstone in Economics