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How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time

Hal R. Varian

The American Economist, 2016, vol. 61, issue 1, 81-90

Abstract: Editor’s Introduction Originally published in Volume 41, Number 2, Fall 1997, pages 3-10 . Hal Varian (born 1947) is widely known by professional economists for his pathbreaking work in the economics of information and networks. Many more know him as the author of two bestselling microeconomics textbooks, one written for undergraduate college students and one designed for advanced graduate students. Through his research and his books, Professor Varian’s ideas have influenced a generation of economists. In this paper, Professor Varian outlines how he approaches the task of building an economic model to explain an observed phenomena or solve a problem. His words are encouraging advice for graduate students and young economists learning how to “practice the art†of economics. Professor Varian offers a number of tips ranging from how to choose a topic, when to read the literature, and even to how to effectively manage your bibliographic citations. Professor Varian’s advice has passed the market test as this paper remains one of the most referenced and downloaded papers in The American Economist ’s backfile. However, after including the paper on a course reading list several years ago, one doctoral student pointed out to this editor that Professor Varian fails to explain how to find the “spare time†that he references in the title!

Date: 2016
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DOI: 10.1177/0569434515627089

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