Scroll down for sample diagrams.
Motivation: How can I contribute with my meagre knowledge of Economics?
When you spend over twenty hours a week studying, you cannot help but ask, ‘Am I going to use a significant proportion of this later on in life, especially if I don’t become an economist? (No.) If not, why am I spending time learning this instead of something that I might actually use?’
My answer to this pessimism is to create value from what I’m learning now. As an undergraduate, it’s doubtful I can contribute to the progress of Economics as a whole, especially since I don’t spend that much time on it *cough cf machine learning cough*. But I do know that there will be Economics students after me, and that they will spend hours poring over Economics textbooks and lecture notes in an attempt to better understand it. If I can use the time I spend learning Economics to improve future students’ learning experience, I will have used my Economics knowledge for some greater, social good. It’s not the ‘save lives’ type of social good, and that’s okay. I have often felt super grateful for online tutorials or answers on StackOverflow.
My Contribution: Mapping Economics
I’ve found that I’m not motivated when I don’t understand how pieces fit together. This is particularly pronounced when I’m falling behind (and so don’t know what’s going on or why it matters).
My contribution then will be to map the papers I’m studying in a diagrammatic way. Diagrams can help convey the big picture and how elements fit together: they convey how we got to those concepts or theories (why they’re relevant), the relationship between different concepts and allow for easy comparison.
There are three types of diagrams I’m creating. I drew all of the graphs below either with draw.io or Lucidchart.
1. Outlines of subject areas
This is properly a big-picture view of each paper and each section of each paper: showing how concepts fit together.
This diagram is for a paper Economics and Uncertainty of Information lectured by Dr. Edoardo Gallo:
2. Relationships between different theories.
These graphs can either be strict partition-type graphs of theories or looser graphs mapping the differences and similarities in assumptions used in theories.
2a Partition-type graphs of theories or models
These could be useful for research because they highlights the areas that have not been tackled yet or that are receiving less attention.
E.g. if current models only covered the paths highlighted in blue, then the case where there are a continuum of agents with more than two types and different productivities might be an open problem (I’m pretty sure it’s not).
2b Looser graphs of theories or models
Looser graphs may be preferred because (1) the partition model may not be appropriate for all theories and (2) because these are easier to make and will look less complex. This isn’t only a matter of time – sometimes the additional complexity is not helpful.
This graph is different in that in doesn’t include every alternative. For example, there is no path leading to a model where the assumption ‘Investors prefer shorter term bonds because of lower interest rate risk’, is false or not required. (Expectations Theory doesn’t count because it’s in another branch.)
3. Connections to other parts of Economics.
This is something I’m considering doing – it isn’t a high priority but may be interesting and motivating for students.
Last year, I created a mind map highlighting connections between different papers in Part I of the Cambridge Economics Tripos. Each box represents a concept, area or example. Different colours represent different papers.
I found it encouraging knowing how content of one paper overlapped with another and felt I understood and retained ideas better when they were grounded with links to other ideas I knew about.
I will be drawing more of these graphs and showing them to other Economics students in the coming weeks. Do tell if you have any comments.