The paper should be written over the summer after the second year and the beginning of the third year. Students are required to turn in a first draft to their advisors on the first day of classes in the fall, and submit a final paper on the Monday after fall break.
Advising: Each student is responsible for finding his or her own advisor—presumably someone from a field in which the student has done well on a general exam. Students who have trouble finding an advisor can ask the DGS for help in finding someone. Students should talk to their advisor in May, to identify a topic. They are expected to work on their projects in a fairly independent manner over the summer. Students who are working as RAs for faculty over the summer may naturally want their paper to be related to their summer work.
Grading (mechanics): Each paper will have a first reader (the advisor) and a second reader. Each first reader will be asked to second-read one paper. The final grade will be an average of the two, with the second reader given more weight in the event of a tie (e.g. an A from the first reader and a B from the second reader would be given a grade of B+; an A from the first reader and an A- from the second reader would get an A-).
Grading (standards): Grades of B or better will go to papers that are good enough to be included as a third chapter in a thesis, i.e., they should be of publishable quality. Papers in the B range will include relatively minor extensions of existing papers, or replications of previous papers using new data and/or methods. Papers that receive grades in the A range are expected to be more innovative, and make a substantive contribution to the topic. Literature reviews are not acceptable.
Progression to the 4th Year: The paper is not part of the general exam. However, students are required to get a grade of B or better on the paper to progress to the 4th year. Students who get less than a B the first time will be given an opportunity to revise the paper, or to find a new advisor and write another paper. However, in either case, the deadline will be no later than the end of the third year.
Special cases: The DGS may extend the deadline for the paper for students who have failed one or more general exams. However, in no case will the paper deadline be extended past the end of the third year.
Presentations: Although this is optional, it would be great if third-year students presented their papers in one of the informal faculty-student research seminars.
Guidelines for the Paper: The third year paper will normally not be more than twenty pages in length. Although it is not necessary that it be a publishable piece in either form or substance, it must be well-crafted and display an element of originality, or provide a synthesis. What follows are some examples of what we have in mind. They are not intended to be exhaustive.
- A paper which poses a good research question and explains the methods, model, and data that will be used to address the question. (This might form the basis of a proposal to obtain funds for dissertation work.)
- A paper which replicates, or attempts to replicate, an existing empirical result. It should contain some details and try to account for differences in findings.
- A synthesis of several papers in the literature, which explains relationships in a critical manner.
- A paper which is suitable for publication in a journal as an article, note or comment.
Students are encouraged to be creative and should not be confined by the boundaries of a course. We expect that many papers will be started during the second year. Work completed prior to enrollment in graduate study at Princeton will not usually be eligible. Finally, papers are expected to be well crafted. This means that spelling, writing style, the preparation of data, organization, mathematics, etc. must be at a professional level.