The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

One might broaden the scope of the undergraduate research experience by encouraging students to reflect on what economists actually do. Essentially economists discover, develop and promote the knowledge and study of economics through the varied facets of academic life. This process is aptly captured in the words of Boyer (1990: 24), ‘knowledge is acquired through research, through synthesis, through practice and through teaching’, which he defined as the scholarships of discovery, integration, application and teaching, respectively.

While it is clear that, as professional economists, we actively partake in these forms of knowledge acquisition, Boyer (1997: 79) suggests ‘the redefinition of scholarship might also be appropriate for students. Why not have all incoming students join with the faculty right away as young scholars in the discovery of knowledge, in the integration of knowledge, in the application of knowledge, and in the communication of knowledge? Why not have these four dimensions of scholarship become the four essential goals of undergraduate education?’

Explicitly identifying steps of the research process can stimulate discussion of alternative methods of conducting research. Students are more likely to develop an understanding of the methods of research traditionally used by economists if they are aware of alternatives that could be adopted. Comparison of methods facilitates critical reflection that is usually a stated outcome of degree programmes. Comparison of this kind might be provided through examples taken from heterodox literature.