Selecting projects

Think BIG. You can do little things that show how clever you are. Or you can do things that matter. What will you do with the answer? Work on things for which the answer matters.

Be realistic about the kind of work you can do. Design a research agenda that fits your institution and your life.

One mentor said she targets 6-8 projects going at the same time. It’s a portfolio strategy: you need some sure things, some reaches.

You will experience diminishing marginal utility from working on any one project. It’s essential to have another project to jump to so you keep being productive.

You don’t have to kill a paper. Let it go into a coma. Come back to it later and you may more easily see how to resuscitate it.

Selecting co-authors

Work with people who need the publication more than you do. Those people get things done. Complement a top researcher with big pressures.

Work with people who are not dismissive of teaching.


You can’t get published if you don’t submit. Mentors suspect that the biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful people is how often they submit and where.

Always submit to a top journal first. You may get in, get good comments, and at least the editor now knows your name. (Unless you’re up next year and really need the pub.)

Women hold on to papers too long. It’s ok to leave some things for the referee to find. Who among us has ever received a report: “This is amazing! Fantastic! Publish it immediately!” Just submit already.

Abstract, Intro, and Tables do need to be flawless. It will earn you the benefit of the doubt because you’ve signaled you are a careful researcher.

Read Diedre McClosky’s “Economical Writing.” Then read it again every year.

Be cordial when writing about other people’s work in your papers. In grad school, your job was to convince your advisor that senior scholars had left a glaring hole in the literature that only your work could fill. Now you’re writing for a different audience. Now those senior scholars are your referees, external reviewers, potential citations.

Automate your tables. Spend time coding up beautiful adaptable tables once, then recycle across papers.

If you don’t want to reformat (e.g. put tables in text), you can state in cover letter that you’ve chosen not to for the ease of the reviewer, but of course you’ll reformat if given and R&R.

Put your papers up on RePEC to establish ownership over the idea and writing. RePEC establishes the date. Can be useful if plagiarism problems.

For R&R, invest in your response article. Often 8-15 pages. It’s more important than the revision itself.

Work flow

Do not work on teaching during any sort of leave (summer, parental, sabbatical).

Always work on your highest marginal product project: 1) R&R. 2) Closest to submission.

When working on an R&R, be relentless. You have to feed your kids. But you don’t necessarily have to feed your spouse.

Get an accountability group. It’s almost better if not economists, because then the discussion is about the process of productivity, not the weeds of your paper.

Write your goals on a whiteboard where your chair and students can see. Keeps you motivated, opens conversation with students about the other half of your job.