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Department of Economics

Independent study project in Economics

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

The ISP in Economics is a 10.000 word essay (dissertation) on an approved topic in economics. The ISP gives students the opportunity to develop, implement and write up an independent research project on a topic of their choosing under the guidance of an academic supervisor. Students learn how to ask a pertinent question and how to go about answering it through research and writing. Research for an ISP in Economics may be based on original theoretical analysis and synthesis of secondary materials, on original fieldwork, on the critical analysis of statistical data, or on the critical evaluation and analysis of primary documentary sources.

The ISP in Economics is open to students of the BSc Economics, the BSc Development Economics and the two-subject BA in Economics in the final year of their undergraduate degree studies.

Preparation and approval of an ISP proposal

Students who would like to pursue the option of an ISP in Economics in their final year can select the course through pre-registration. They MUST submit a title and a short synopsis (max. 300 words) to the ISP course convenor NO LATER THAN BY THE END OF THE FIRST WEEK OF TERM 3 OF THE SECOND YEAR of their studies (or their third year for students enrolled in a four-year undergraduate degree course).

The ISP course convenor will then meet with interested students on an individual basis to discuss the feasibility of their research idea and topic and to suggest suitable supervisors.  Following this initial meeting, students are expected to consult potential supervisors to further discuss and develop their ISP proposal, and to obtain an agreement to supervise their planned ISP from a potential supervisor.

Final approval of an ISP in Economics by the ISP course convenor will take place between the start of enrolment week and the deadline for changes to a student’s course sign-up in the relevant academic year. Final approval will depend on the attainment of an average 65% grade in the second year of studies (or the third year for students enrolled in a four-year undergraduate degree course), and on an appropriate supervision arrangement being in place by the start of the academic year, in which students wish to undertake the ISP in Economics.

It is therefore very important that students wishing to undertake an ISP in Economics, and who have followed the above procedure, make an appointment with the ISP course convenor during enrolment week of their final year, or in the two weeks following this, to OBTAIN FINAL APPROVAL for their ISP.


Students wishing to undertake an ISP in Economics must have attained an average grade of at least 65% in year two of their studies (or in year three for students enrolled in a four-year undergraduate degree course).  Prerequisite courses for admission to an ISP are:

(153400123) Macroeconomic Analysis


(153400130) Microeconomic Analysis

(Note: For BSc Economics and BSc Development Economics students both these courses are core courses in year 2 of their degrees, but BA two-subject degree students can only take EITHER of these two courses in their year 2)

In addition, approval of an ISP proposal is conditional on the availability of appropriate supervision. Please note that the ISP course convenor cannot assign supervisors to individual students. Instead, students wishing to undertake an ISP in Economics are required to consult potential supervisors with guidance from the ISP course convenor.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of an ISP in Economic students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate a substantial understanding of a key issue, topic or theme relating to economic theory or policy
  2. to plan, develop and present a coherent and structured written argument on a key issue, topic or theme relating to economic theory or policy
  3. effectively gather, synthesize and employ relevant empirical and theoretical materials in support of their written argument
  4. demonstrate their capacity to work independently under the guidance of an academic supervisor
  5. show that they understand and have followed good academic research practice and have achieved a good level of competence in academic writing.


Course organisation

The ISP in Economics is based on independent and autonomous learning under the guidance of the ISP supervisor.

ISP supervisors are expected to provide up to 10 hours of supervision time to students of this course under their supervision. You are also encouraged to make use of the support for essay and ISP writing available from the Academic Development Directorate (ADD). The ADD offers on-line help, workshops and one-to-one tutorials which cover many aspects of academic writing relevant for ISPs.

Any questions regarding specific supervision arrangements, and any complaints relating to these, should be directed to the ISP course convenor.

The method of assessment is 100% coursework, consisting of a 10.000 word dissertation to be submitted to the Faculty Office of the Faculty of Law & Social Sciences on the FIRST FRIDAY OF TERM 3.  Resubmission of coursework regulations apply to this course.

All ISPs in Economics are to be submitted on Turnitin via Moodle by 11.59pm on the day of submission.

Once submitted, ISPs (as all coursework) cannot be withdrawn and resubmitted. Ensure you allow sufficient time for your work to upload onto turnitin.  Any work submitted after the 11.59pm deadline will automatically receive a 2% point penalty per working day for every day after the deadline). Ensure you receive a receipt from turnitin which is proof of submission. If you do not receive the receipt within minutes of submission or you are experiencing problems uploading your assignment email a copy of your coursework, please contact the student support office of the Faculty of Law & Social Sciences immediately.

For further information on the School’s Code of Practice on ISPs, please see your SOAS Undergraduate Handbook SOAS Undergraduate Handbook (Part 2, Section: Code of Practice: Independent Study Project, , currently p. 138-147) 

Method of assessment

The method of assessment is 100% coursework, consisting of a 10.000 word dissertation to be submitted to the Faculty Office of the Faculty of Law & Social Sciences on the FIRST FRIDAY OF TERM 3.  Resubmission of coursework regulations apply to this course.

Suggested reading

Guidelines: Writing an ISP

These are general guidelines on the use of sources, referencing and presentation of an ISP. Depending on your topic, specific issues, for example about the use of data or graphic presentations, may arise. For any questions on such specific issues, you should consult your ISP supervisor.

Please also note that general information about referencing, essay and dissertation writing is available from the SOAS Academic Development Directorate (ADD), please go to: Study Skills Advice. You are strongly encouraged to consult these pages prior to writing your ISP.  In addition to its on-line support pages, the ADD also provides workshops and one-to-one tutorials that cover aspects of academic writing. Should you feel this will be helpful, please consult the ADD pages for further information on dates and appointments.

Sources and referencing
Usage and amount of references:

The amount of references required obviously depends on your topic. However, as a general guideline, you need to make sure that your research is well founded in existing literature, and hence your ISP should never rely on very few repeatedly cited sources.

All works cited in the text should appear on the list of references. Works that are not cited should not be listed in the bibliography. It is important that quotations in the text, and information in the bibliography are formatted to the appropriate academic standard. You can choose from a range of referencing formats, but should make sure that you consistently use ONE referencing format. For more detail, please consult the referencing and bibliography guidelines published by the ADD: Study Skills Advice.

When in doubt about the number of references or the referencing format, please consult your ISP supervisor.

Usage of internet sources:

In general, published sources such as books and academic articles are the more reliable source of information and to be preferred over internet sources. If you wish to use internet sources, you need to make sure that these are reliable sites, such as academic, governmental or institutional webpages. Wikipedia and similar popular webpages, as wells as blogs or chatrooms, ARE NOT to be used for an ISP since they reflect opinion rather than reviewed academic or institutional contributions and can be inaccurate. Depending on topics, it can sometimes be relevant to quote, for instance, a company webpage, to provide evidence of specific views, etc. This is admissible, if relevant citations or references are placed into context in your ISP. When in doubt, please consult your ISP supervisor.

If you need to quote from an internet source, make sure that you provide the full link, together with the principal source (e.g. a government department, institution, etc.) together the day you last accessed that particular site in your references. It can also be advisable to print out anything you might want to use immediately since webpages can be taken down as you progress with your ISP. In addition, having a hard copy also means that you can show it to your supervisor upon request.

Citations in text:

To avoid plagiarism issues, all direct and indirect quotes should be made clear in the text, either by inserting the reference in brackets in the texts or in a footnote. Even referring to somebody’s ideas, or information taken out of a book needs to be properly referenced. ISPs will receive a lower mark when they are poorly referenced even if the research was original. For use of non-English sources, you can treat indirect references as English sources (e.g. you summarise an argument and indicate the source by mentioning the author, year, and where appropriate specific pages in brackets). Direct quotes can be your own translation, but this needs to be noted in brackets (e.g. Smith 2012, p. XX, my translation).

Use of abbreviations and/or non-English terms

Any abbreviation, however common, either needs to be spelled out when used first (and the abbreviation added in brackets) or else listed in a glossary at the end of your ISP. Once you have spelled out a term and added the abbreviation in brackets, you can then use the abbreviation throughout the remainder of your text.

Format and presentation
  • An ISP should be easily readable. Therefore 1.5 line-spacing or double-spacing is recommended, as well as using clear fonts, such as Times Roman or Arial.
  • An ISP should have a cover sheet, containing its title, your name, student ID, degree, the date of submission and the word count. (see below for SOAS regulations on the definition of “word count”).
  • The cover sheet MUST be followed by the SIGNED declaration of plagiarism (you can also find this on p. 10 of the Code of Practice for ISPs in the UG Handbook):
Declaration by candidate

I have read and understood the School regulation concerning plagiarism and I undertake:

  • that all material presented for examination is my own work and has not been written for me, in whole or in part, by any other person(s);
  • that any quotation or paraphrase from the published or unpublished work of another person has been duly acknowledged in this ISP;
  • that I have not incorporated in this ISP without acknowledgement any work previously submitted by me for any other course forming part of my degree.

Signed…………………………… (student)

  • An ISP should have a table of contents: Please structure your ISP along numbered sections; it makes it a lot easier for you to write, because it helps you structure your thoughts – and it also makes it easier for your examiners to read it and follow your train of thought. Please make sure that your ISP has page numbers. Your table of contents should have the page number for each section correctly. The table of contents should also include the bibliography and any appendices to your ISP.
  • Bibliography: This should contain all works cited in your ISP and none that you have not used. It needs to be sorted alphabetically, online sources without a clear author need to be listed separately. Please make sure that your reference and citation style is consistent, and follows an accepted style format consistently.
  • Appendices: Depending on topic, ISPs can include appendices (e.g. detailing interview text and sources, additional data analyses or details of an econometric model). Appendices should NOT contain material that is not mentioned or referred to in the main text of your ISP. Appendices allow you to provide more in-depth materials that are clearly relevant to your core analysis in the main text, but would be too cumbersome, distracting or long, to include in the main text (and therefore also the word count). It is, however, very important, that appendices are not used to provide ADDITIONAL NEW information that you have not addressed in the main body of your ISP.
Word Count and Penalties for Over-Length

Penalties apply for coursework, including ISPs, that exceed the word count. You can find regulations on word limits in the SOAS Undergraduate Handbook (sections 6.19.3 – 6.19.8, pp. 75/76). The most important of these are the definition of the word count and the penalties for over-length. The word count is defined as “as the number of words contained in the submitted work including quotations, footnotes, titles, abstracts, summaries and tables of contents. Appendices and bibliographies are not included in the word count. Appendices will not normally be marked and they must not include material essential to the argument developed in the main body of the work.”  There are no specific penalties for under-length work that is assessed within the normal provisions of the marking scheme. Generally speaking, under-length essays can be very good essays, but normally addressing an essay topic would require if not the full word limit, certainly a word count relatively close to this. The penalties for over-length essays are as follows:

  • Excess Length Mark Deduction (Percentage points)
  • Up to and including10% 5 percentage points
  • More than 10% up to and including 20% 10 percentage points
  • More than 20% up to and including 30% 15 percentage points
  • More than 30% The work may be submitted and will be accepted.  It will not be marked but will be assigned a grade of 0.
  • Over-length coursework for which the mark after penalty is 40 or more may not be revised and resubmitted.
  • Over-length coursework for which the mark after penalty is 39 or less may be revised and resubmitted if the course of which it forms a part has been failed. If resubmission is permitted it will be on the normal submission date in the academic year following.
  • If coursework is submitted late and is over-length, the penalty for late submission will be applied first. If, as a result, the coursework mark is 39 or less then if resubmission is permitted the coursework must be on a new topic.