Resources for PhD students

Coding and data management

Version control (Git)

Picking topics and developing ideas

  • Some perspectives:

  • My two cents: think in terms of developing topical expertise, not (just) coming up with viable projects. Lots of things have to line up for a proposed project to succeed: in applied micro, you need an interesting question, suitable data, and convincing variation, with novelty along one or more of these margins. This is hard, and you can expect to pitch many projects unsuccessfully before you land on one with legs.

  • Instead of jumping immediately to specific questions/data/variation, give some thought to what topics really interest you, and solicit feedback on whether a potential thesis topic seems promising. I’m talking here about something broader than a research paper but narrower than a field. Within labor economics, some examples would be “the economics of working conditions”, “racial disparities in labor market outcomes”, or “the labor market for health care workers”. (A useful test: can you see it as the title of your dissertation? Or would it sound too narrow, too broad, or simply unimportant?)

  • Why think in terms of topics? First, if a particular research idea doesn’t work out, you can recycle more of what you’ve learned about the economic questions, available data, and potential sources of variation. Developing topical expertise will speed up the process of triaging ideas. Second, working within a well-defined topical area will equip you with a coherent research identity and the beginnings of a longer-term research agenda. By contrast, focusing too narrowly on project viability can leave you with a portfolio of unrelated, one-off projects in areas where you don’t have deep expertise.

Data visualization and presentations

Reading and writing papers

Professional development and citizenship

Mental health and making it through

Other resources