Research Paper and Seminar

Course #: EC481

Welcome to EC481 course guide. This guide provides information sources to help you complete a research paper that applies economic analysis to a policy issue. It focuses on using library resources to select a topic and frame your research question, to write a literature review and to find data to conduct an empirical analysis.

Use the links below to navigate to the different sections of this guide.

Selecting a Topic

Consider the following factors when thinking about a research topic you want to work on for your paper:

  • Not too broad or too small: A general topic means you would have an overwhelming amount of literature to look through for writing your literature review. However, if your topic is too small, you may not be able to find enough references for your literature review.
  • Consider the data availability: Your paper depends on a certain amount of reliable data. It will be wise to check the data sources when you start selecting your topic to avoid any frustration that might be caused after you find yourself unable to find the data you need for a seemingly great idea.
  • Choose a topic that interests you. Conduct preliminary research on this topic in current periodicals, journals or newspaper to see what research has already been done. This will help determine what kinds of questions the topic generates.

The following databases are useful for conducting preliminary research.

Contains scholarly, trade, popular and news titles, many of which are available in full-text or full-image. Search with keywords related to your research. You may limit search to full text and filter by subject, geography, date, etc. located on the left side of the search result page. Video tutorial: How to Search ProQuest Databases.
Comprehensive database, with citations and full-text content, for leading business journals including scholarly, trade, popular and news titles. Search with keywords related to your research. On the search result page, click on Subject: Thesaurus Terms on the left side to filter your search by subject. You may also limit search to full text and filter by geography, date, etc. located on the left side of the search results page.
A reputable full-text resource with news and business information drawn from worldwide sources, including Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and the KW Record. It also includes many full text articles from magazines and scholarly journals in all subject areas. Consult the Factiva LibGuide for search tips.
Provides full-text documents for international news, business, legal research, and key people in the news. To browse for news articles, click on Search by Subject or Topic at the top-right corner and click on All news.

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Framing your Research Question

Framing a clear research question is a crucial part of developing your research proposal. One of the strategies is to start your search broad and then limit to a particular aspect of the topic for writing your paper. In particular it will be helpful if you can read some articles that involve a clear economic theory and empirical analysis.

Example: You are interested in doing research on Canadian immigrants but not sure about what questions you may exactly work on. Searching via ProQuest may help you identify the issues that have been researched on this topic and help develop your research question.

1. Go to the library homepage

2. Click on Databases: subject & titles on the left side

3. Enter in ProQuest into the search box

4. Click on Search

5. Click on Connect to resource under ProQuest databases (all). Off-campus Laurier Network Login will be required for authentication.

6. On the ProQuest Advanced Search page enter immigrants on the first line, select Article for the document type, and click on Search

7. You will get a great number of results as “immigrants” is a very general topic. To narrow your search, select Scholarly Journals under Source Type because you will write an academic research paper and scholarly journals publish academic titles. You may also limit to Peer reviewed and refine the Publication date.

8. Click on Subject ->More options. A Subject window will pop up. The terms in the subject column indicate different aspects of the topic of immigrants that have been studied. Choose the one(s) that you are interested in. E.g. labor market. Tick the first box in front of “labor market” and click on Apply. This helps reduce the number of results further.

9. Click on Classification ->More options. A Classification window will pop up. Tick the first box (es) in front of the relevant subject term(s). In this example, you are interested in Canadian immigrants and your research has to involve an economic policy. Include “Canada” and “Economic policy & planning” and click on Apply. This step helps you find the more relevant and specific articles. Note that if the number displayed in the Count column of the Classification window is less than ten, it means you may not be able to get a decent number of references to read through in that particular aspect of the topic regarding immigrants' labor market. Looking through each title on the result page may help you develop your own research question.

10. Note that you may not see "Economic policy & planning" appear as subject terms in the subject or classification window for each topic. To find specific articles that include a policy or an empirical analysis component, you may also look at other subject terms such as "regression analysis", "econometrics analysis", "statistical analysis", "policy impact", "socioeconomic factor", etc.

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Key Databases for Economic Policy Papers and Scholarly Journal Articles

Discussion papers (and more) on current research in economic policy.
Research reports on public policy, economics and management.
Collection of abstracts, working and accepted papers in over 100 different Economics subject areas.
A comprehensive database that covers scholarly journal articles in Economics. Search with keywords related to your research. Limit search to full text and filter by subject, geography, date, etc. located on the left side of the search result page.
Provides citations and full-text content for more than 400 economic periodicals, as well as books, book chapters, dissertations, reviews, conferences and working papers.
A single-access search gateway to the full text of online journals published by several major academic journal publishers. Search with keywords related to your research. Click the link to subject terms below an article title to find more articles grouped under a specific subject quickly.
Search with keywords related to your research. On the search result page, click on Subject: Thesaurus Terms on the left side to filter search by subject. You may also limit search to full text and filter by geography, date, etc. located on the left side of the search results page.
Allows users to search with keywords or titles. You can set up your own personal Google account and set Google Scholar preferences on your home computer. When off campus you will see "Get it @ Laurier" links to some of the contents on Google Scholar. It means you can search Laurier's journal subscriptions through Google. You don't have to sign in with your Laurier account each time.
A source for peer-reviewed, full-text articles from international journals and reference sources. Coverage includes Economics and finance.

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Data and statistics

Please use the sources on the Economics Subject Guide to find aggregate data or microdata. Click on Statistics tab.

Doing Regression Analysis with Stata or SPSS

Stata and SPSS are available on Laurier Network Login workstations in the Library (versions subject to change).

Consult the following resources to learn how to use the software to do statistical analyses.


  • Applied Econometrics lecture notes: Econometrics Group, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, lecture notes covering introductory econometrics topics with examples using Stata
  • A Short Guide to Sata 14: Kurt Schmidheiny, Universit¨at Basel. This guide introduces the basic commands of Stata using specific examples.
  • YouTube: search with keyword “Stata tutorial”


Google search for earlier versions. e.g. IBM SPSS 21 Guide
  • Data Analysis Examples UCLA - The pages contains examples illustrating the application of different statistical analysis techniques using different statistical packages including SPSS, Stata, SAS and R.
  • What Statistical Analysis should I Use? UCLA - The table covers commonly used statistical tests based on the number and nature of dependent variables and the nature of independent variables, with links showing how to do such tests in SAS, Stata, SPSS and R.
  • Getting Started with SPSS – A free course offered by the Open University taking a step-by-step approach to statistics software through seven interactive activities.
  • YouTube – Search with keyword SPSS
  • SPSS Books in the Library

Additional resource: CARMA provides access to live webcasts as well as the past recorded videos on research methods and analysis. Access requires a CARMA personal account using your Laurier email address.

Citing Sources

The Citing Sources Guide available at the library includes different citation styles and tips on how to cite by subject including data and statistics.

* One-on-One research consultation with the subject librarian is available. Use the contact information of the subject librarian to the right side of this site to book an appointment.

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