Alex Tabarrok has a nice post entitled "Advice for Graduate Students" that emphasizes (through the example of Steve Levitt) the value of hard work in establishing a research career in economics. As Alex highlights, it takes years to get a really good paper in shape and published. What is the longest time you have worked on a paper from start to final publication?
The first paper I wrote in graduate school was originally written in the summer of 1984, revised probably 25 or more times and was published in 1989. Another paper was thought up in 1987, written in 1992, finally published in 1997. As you write more papers, the production process can become more efficient and you can produce papers in a shorter span of time. But from the original idea through the drafts papers do not appear overnight. Scholars who write a lot of papers do so because they write everyday, day after day, for years. There is no secret formula. Hard work pays off.
Here is some of the best advice I ever received.
James Buchanan -- "Keep your ass in the chair. If you work 6:00am to 6:00pm, you will outwork all the other academics around you."
James Buchanan -- "All work is work in progress. Don't get it right, get it written."
James Buchanan -- "Writing is research."
James Buchanan -- "The best dissertation is a done dissertation."
James Buchanan --- "It takes varied reiterations to force alien concepts upon reluctant minds."
James Buchanan --- "It is not the courage of convictions that matters, but the courage to withstand the critique of your convictions that matters."
James Buchanan --- "Dare to be different."
Kenneth Boulding -- "At some point in your career you will be confronted with the following dilemma -- should you read or should you write. I chose to write."
Bob Tollison -- "Never consider a criticism as lethal, but instead as an opportunity for another line on your CV."
Don Lavoie -- "Why are you doing this? Don't ever forget your answer to that question."
Israel Kirzner -- "A scholar needs a quiet life for serious contemplation. Don't say yes to everything otherwise you will never have the quiet needed to make the contributions you are capable of."
Andrei Shleifer -- "Why be boring?"
Gary Becker (about what he learned from Milton Friedman) --- "Economics is not just a game to be played by clever people, but a discipline for thinking about the world and addressing the real-world of public policy."
The best advice I can give to students is:
"Look out the window rather than on the black board for your questions. Strive to find puzzles where it appears that history defies what logic dictates and then solve the puzzle by demonstrating with the tools of rational choice theory and institutional analysis the the defiance was only an illusion."
"Strive to become a productive input into the scholarly production process of the leading scholars in your field."
"Think like a Misesian (deductively), but write like a Hayekian (inductively). Or in other words, use praxeology to think about economics and political economy, but write up your results in the language of conjectures and refutations."
"Listen to everything that James Buchanan has to say about pursuing an academic career as an economist and political economist."
What is the best advice you have heard from your professors on how to be a productive scholar in economics?