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Undergraduate research journal thrives at Elon

Issues in Political Economy, an undergraduate research journal co-published by Elon University, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, where several students have used the annual publication as a springboard to graduate studies in some of the nation’s premiere economic programs.

The journal is the oldest of its kind in print today. Elon co-publishes IPE in coordination with the University of Mary Washington. The schools each year alternate responsibility for refereeing and editing submissions in a double-blind submission process, and Elon holds that distinction for 2009.

“It’s a very academic thing,” said Steve DeLoach, a professor and chair of the Department of Economics who co-advises the journal at Elon with professor Tina Das. “Usually you don’t learn how to do it until you’re in grad school working on your PhD.”

In 2007, the most recent year that Elon edited the journal, students from the University of Michigan, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan College and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas were represented in the edition. Submissions examined an economic analysis of Internet recruiting, a new approach to progress in the World Trade Organization’s agricultural trade negotiation, and music piracy.

Students who take advantage of the journal often come away with a finer appreciation for research, DeLoach said, and it gives them a leg up on competition for coveted slots in graduate programs. Former journal editors echoed those sentiments.

“I have to read lots of papers in the PhD level classes. We don’t have books anymore and are just reading journal articles. It’s surprising to me how many people don’t know how to read these,” said Mike Koslow ’07, an economics major who served as an associate editor and is now pursuing his doctorate in economics at the University of Virginia. “It was good to get that experience, to learn how to read a paper and realize what its shortcoming and strengths are.”

But working for Issues in Political Economy, and conducting undergraduate economics research in general, does more than prepare future graduate students for reading academic articles. One IPE alum said that his experience offered him a taste of what awaits after a difficult first stage of graduate work.

“When you go to graduate school in economics, there’s two, maybe three, phases. The first is doing your coursework,” said Samuel K. Allen ’99, now serving on the faculty at the Virginia Military Institute. “At that point, it’s really technical, there’s a lot of math, and for the first year you don’t really think people are talking about economics, or even talking in English. You’re talking in mathematics.

“After you do your preliminary theory examines, to show you have the quantitative skills to proceed, at that point you’ll still be taking some courses, but you really start focusing on your writing and your contributions to the field,” he said. “I had a preview of that phase by working on the journal.”

Of course, working for the journal is one thing; having a paper published is another.

While Elon students have had their work appear in Issues in Political Economy, publication is no sure thing, DeLoach said. And as the undergraduate journal’s reputation grows, the competition only gets tougher.

“For an undergraduate, it’s a kind of honor,” DeLoach said. “It says you’re doing good work and meet higher quality standards.”

Journal staff for 2009

Chris Farnsworth (senior economics and environmental studies major)
Andrea Dorrow (junior economics and business administration major)
Managing Editor:
Meredith Mosko (senior economics major)

Eric Townsend,
12/2/2008 3:24 PM