My department has offered a three-week course on writing and presenting in economics, and I have found one of the reference book, A Guide to the Young Economist, very useful. This posts summarizes a few points that I have generally ignored but are important.
1. Doing research is an iterative process. This shows up in the process of getting ideas and formulating questions. Do not get frustrated when you have to revise your research question, adopt a different theoretical model, change your empirical analysis due to data limitations, etc. Try to have fun in this iterative process: remember this is essential for you to become a good researcher.
2. The same iteration process applies to writing papers. Thomson makes the following point about circulating your work: send your paper to a few people that you’re confident who would give you feedback soon.
When you start circulating your paper, it if often better to proceed sequentially, at least initially. Send it first to a few people who are likely to respond and make suggestions. … Revise your paper according to the comments you get, and send it to a few more people. You may once again get suggestions. Revise it again. … After the suggestions have dwindled to a few minor comments, send it to a wider audience.
This approach allows you to acquire the most thoughtful advice (from the people who are most likely to respond) and to impress the people whom you need to impress.
3. Adding to the previous point, always consult your adviser before circulating your work, especially your original data.
4. When you have a specific question to discuss with your adviser, write that down first. Doing so will sharpen your thinking about the question (and maybe solve it!) and will demonstrate to your adviser that you have taken the initiative to solve it. I personally think each meeting with faculty is an opportunity to present your research ideas and to present you as a person.
5. Get into the habit of coming up with research ideas right from the beginning of your program. Carry a notebook with you to seminars and conversations about research and jot down any ideas that come to mind. Reflect on them regularly and see if they are feasible for research.
More thoughts in the next few posts.