Our introductory textbook presents a method for building a research paper in three structural layers. First, position the paper in the literature and articulate an argument about what it contributes. Next, build an outline to support the argument. Finally, draft paragraphs that allow others to learn as they read.
This three-layer approach yields first drafts with good structural fundamentals: a logical argument, a well-organized set of sections, and paragraphs that get their point across, even to skimming readers.
Honored to be recommended reading here.
We hired Varanya several summers in a row when I served as Director of Graduate Studies to conduct a week-long bootcamp to assist our advanced Ph.D. students in writing their job-market papers. I sat in on several of the classroom sessions and was truly impressed with Varanya’s bottom-up methodology for building a cogent and coherent economic treatise. She first helps students understand what exactly it is they wish to communicate and then coaches them in how to write clear concise sentences, cohesive paragraphs, and compelling sections. All of the students who participated benefited from the experience and for many of them it was nothing short of transformative. One quote I recall from a student survey sums it up best, “Varanya’s methods not only taught me how to write like an economist, but how to think like one.”
"I highly recommend any Ph.D. student who is writing a paper to take Varanya's writing course. If you compare your final paper with your initial paper after taking the writing course, you will be surprised."
“Varanya’s writing course was one of the most intense, fun, and rewarding weeks of my grad school experience. She focuses on the stuff that really matters: how to distill your main argument and structure your paper for maximum impact. In addition to being invaluable tools on the job market, I have continued to apply these principles ever since, both in oral communication and when writing papers and slides.”
“Effective written communication is the most important skill that is not formally taught in economics Ph.D. programs. Varanya's class provides a structured framework for writing clear economics papers. It benefited me tremendously on the job market and on the papers I have written since then.”
When I was the Director of Graduate Studies at Vanderbilt, I heard about Varanya's course from a new junior colleague who had taken it at Berkeley and gave it high praise. For the past four years, Varanya has helped our job market candidates (and some younger students) to improve their writing and presentation skills. I truly believe that this course helped our students to access better interviews and to obtain better placements. The transition from in-person to online delivery was very smooth, and students seem equally satisfied with the online version of the course. In my experience, even those who were most skeptical and reluctant going into the course ended up agreeing that it helped them to gain a new and useful perspective on how to convey their ideas and findings to others.
"This course was extremely helpful -- not just in guiding me in academic writing and explaining my thoughts clearly, but also in forcing me to organize my ideas, my contributions, and my place in the literature. I've seen myself using her tips in my recent papers, and I hope to continue using everything I learned in my future work."
"Economists produce articles: why not learn how to write them? Varanya has come up with a potent technology to transform muddled thoughts and tangled lines of code into communicable ideas, and she excels at teaching it. Her course is one of the best ways around to master the craft of our guild."
I found Varanya's course really helpful not only for my thesis paper, but also in learning to write as a whole. Her workshop taught me the key elements that go into good papers and that writing clearly is the only way to communicate any idea. Overall it also helped me to think about my research question. I would highly recommend this to all PhD students, even if they were not writing their thesis. I look forward to incorporating her methods in my future writing.
"When my current employer offered me the job, he said one reason he chose me is that I am a good writer. I had a solid foundation for general writing beforehand, and Varanya's course helped me build that foundation into good writing for economists."
"Graduate school is short, and there’s nothing more important than using that time efficiently. What Varanya teaches is not just how to write clearly, but also how to make decisions (and when to get feedback) about what argument a piece of research is trying to make, what evidence is necessary, and how to structure that evidence. The payoff was less time getting stuck or barking up the wrong tree, and more time making progress. Varanya’s class was one of the best things our department did for us."
"I found Varanya Chaubey's writing course extremely helpful and recommend it highly. Varanya identifies the specific elements that contribute to successful economics writing and provides students with tools to implement each one. She was an incredible help on my job market paper. Thank you Varanya!"
“In Varanya's writing workshop I learned a reasonably comprehensive algorithm for improving the clarity of my writing. Based on experience reading and writing, I had picked up a general sense of properties that clear papers shared. Specifically, clear papers do a pretty good job of telling the reader why they need to know what the paper is telling them. But the workshop gave me a more routinized set of tests to apply to my own writing to see if this is happening”
“Varanya's course helped me in not only sharpening every section of my job market paper but also enlightening me on how routine writing can feedback positively to research at early stages.”
“Thanks to Varanya's RAP method, I made extensive progress in how to motivate my job market paper and begin the introduction. I also learned a lot from her many recommendations, especially those on paragraph structure. My current and future papers will benefit greatly from her advice.”
Writing is one of the most underrated skills (and perhaps the most underrated) an economics PhD student can possess, and Varanya's course really helped me in describing my results in ways that were not only coherent but marketable across disciplines. I'd recommend her course to anyone in a later stage of their graduate program.
"“They don't teach you the skill of writing in graduate school, but writing is most of what we do as economists. Varanya's course gave me practical tips on how to structure my thoughts and to put them down into paragraphs and sentences. We worked hard on polishing the abstract and introduction of my job market paper. And it paid off. In one of my flyouts, an interviewer remarked that he particularly liked how my introduction was both clear and concise. I highly recommend this writing class.”
“In addition to serving as a commitment device to write, Varanya’s workshop helped me with multiple facets: from developing an outline to the first draft. In addition to providing a framework to crafting research papers in general, Varanya also gave us personalized advice based on our strengths and weaknesses. I think that this class will be especially useful for students who have not had the chance to take a full semester-long course on academic writing.”
"This course clarified not just my writing, but also my thinking. My advisor noticed a marked improvement on the very next draft I handed in."