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Co-authored papers for post-bac RA positions


notjeremyboga
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If it's a paper from an RA job with a professor then I'd recommend no, even if the job posting allows it (which they often don't). A co-authored RA paper can only serve as a good signal of your competence at RA data cleaning or lit review, but that information should already be included in the LOR from the professor. On aspects like communication ability, research intuition, or econometric proficiency, it's an ambiguous signal when the quality is good because your advisor could have guided you, but a clear negative signal if there are errors/mistakes, because neither you nor your advisor noticed them.

 

What typical empirical RA positions look for are sufficient programming knowledge and English literacy to get started on RA work immediately, not to gauge the quality of your best research previously produced (that's a job for journal reviewers or PhD adcoms). It's possible that a mediocre/incomplete solo authored paper can signal enough about your knowledge to surpass a supervisor's standard for RA hiring, while a much better co-authored paper can't provide the same reassurance.

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Personal opinion, but I think the purpose of the writing sample is to gauge your economic intuition and ability to interpret/communicate results. If it was only to check your English literacy, then the cover letter should have been enough. However, good news is that many professors recruiting in the fall understand that most people would have their first solo-authored paper through their thesis, which wouldn't be complete by the fall. However, you should be ready to discuss your ideas intelligently during the interviews.

 

Also, aren't writing samples optional for most positions? It's great if you have a data project for your metrics class that you can submit, but otherwise I don't think it's a big deal. If you don't feel confident about your data project, then I wouldn't send it in. If this material is optional, it's much better to send no signal than a negative signal (you'll have an opportunity to show your intuition through interviews/data tasks anyway)

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Agree with both preceding posts. There's almost no signal in a co-authored paper here.

 

Another alternative to consider is taking a weekend to prepare a very brief (say 3 pages or so) research "note" of sorts that can be used as a sample if needed. For example, download some CPS data or otherwise, find some interesting question you can address in the data, run a few regressions and write a few pages about your analysis. No one's going to read a full writing sample paper anyway. A brief memo like this would cover the most important parts of the writing sample signaling exercise.

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