MA Essay Guidelines

Notes on the preparation and presentation of Master's Essays

Queen's University Department of Economics 

Revised February 16, 2011 

General Information

The Master’s Essay, of usually between 7,500 and 12,500 words, is written under the direction of a supervisor.  The project should involve original research.  This could take many forms.  For example, an application of existing empirical methods to new or different data sets, an extension (normally small) of existing theory, or a critical analysis of a theoretical or economic policy problem are all suitable topics for an MA essay.

After the supervisor has approved the essay for submission, students must submit two hard copies and a PDF of the essay to the Graduate Studies Assistant for grading.  The PDF should be sent by electronic mail.  The student should also inform the Graduate Studies Assistant who their supervisor is.  The essay must be in proper form (see below), and free of typographical errors.  If initial perusal of the essay by the Graduate Studies Assistant and/or the Coordinator of Graduate Studies indicates that the essay is not properly formatted, it will be returned to the student for corrections prior to being graded.

The Department examines essays as quickly as possible, but it may take several weeks for the essay to be marked, especially is it is handed in during the peak period of August.  Students are advised to submit by August 1st to be eligible for Fall convocation and to avoid paying additional fees.

The essay will be examined and assigned a percentage grade by a committee composed of the supervisor and one other member of the Department.  The average grade of the two committee members will be assigned unless the individual grades differ by more than 10 percentage points.  In such a case, the Coordinator of Graduate Studies or his/her delegate will examine the essay and assign a final grade based in part on consultation with the committee members.  In the event of a failing grade, revision of the essay or submission of a new essay may be made on the approval of Division V.

The essay has been approved and any required revisions have been made, the PDF will be posted on the QED website with password protection.

The essay must be in satisfactory literary form and should normally be between 7,500 and 12,500 words in length.  It should comprise of the following in order:

  1. Title page (include international copyright symbol, sample attached)
  2.  Acknowledgments 
  3.  Table of Contents 
  4.  The main body of the essay 
  5.  Footnotes (these may also appear at the foot of each page or at the end of each chapter) 
  6.  Bibliography 
  7.  Figures (unless inserted in body of the essay) 
  8.  Tables (unless inserted in body of the essay)


The hardcopies of the essay must be printed on white, cream or ivory paper of size 21.5 cm X 28 cm (8 ½ x 11). These hardcopies will be given to the supervisor and the second reader.

Generally speaking, an essay should be drafted in a form acceptable to the major journals of economics. The text must be double-spaced except for footnotes, figures and quotations, of five lines or more, which should be single-space.  The inside margin (left) should be 3.8 cm or 1 ½ inches; other margins 2.5 cm or 1 inch. This applies to figures and tabulations as well.  Ornate type styles are not acceptable.  Italics may be used only for emphasis or where otherwise appropriate (e.g. scientific, journal titles).

If footnotes are on each page, space should be left on the page for any footnotes.  There should be a line separating the text from the footnotes.

There should be only two sets of page numbers - small Roman numerals for the preliminary pages, and Arabic numerals for the text, bibliography and appendices.

Tables, figures and maps must conform to the previous regulations and be incorporated in relation to the text  and pagination.  Figures must have scales and symbols defined on them, not in the text.



The international copyright symbol (©) must appear, typed at the foot of the title page of every MA essay (see example).


Further Information

Examples of essays acceptable to the Department are available in the Malcolm C. Urquhart Reading Room in Dunning Hall.