Research Paper Option

All students in this course have the option of writing a research paper instead of doing the two take-home exercises. Students in MIT’s Technology and Policy Program (TPP) who wish to use this course to meet the law distribution requirement must take the research paper option. If a student takes more than one of my courses, an additional research paper will be required in the second course, on a topic to be determined in discussions with the instructor. The requirements for the paper option are set out below. If you have any questions about these requirements as you are working on the paper, you can ask me.

Selecting a Topic

Students must meet with Prof. Akula to discuss possible topics, and we will agree on a topic. I intend to give students broad leeway in the selection of a topic, because I want you to pick a topic in which you have a strong interest. However, the topic will have to be one that may produce materials of use to the course in future years. For TPP students, the topic must have a policy focus.

Length and Approach

The paper should be between 3000 and 5000 words long, including footnotes and bibliography.

Since this paper will be the only deliverable for a nine-credit course, I expect it to be a work of very high quality. The topic should be carefully conceived; the research should be thorough; and the writing should be carefully edited. If you are relying on the academic literature, you should use peer-reviewed journals whenever possible. If you are relying on news sources, you should use sources with recognized high standards (such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Economist). Surfing the Internet and collecting bits of information from web pages not subject to high academic or journalistic standards is not sufficient.


Type your paper double-spaced with footnotes at the bottom of each page and include a bibliography at the end. If there are key articles upon which you have relied and they are not too long, please attach hard copies. I may ask you to provide hard copies of articles you cite if I think they may be of use for the course in future years.


A topic should be selected by three days before lecture 8, so we will need to meet prior to that date. After we meet and select a topic, you should send the professor an e-mail (with a copy to the TA) summarizing the conversation we will have had about your paper.

The final paper is due three days before lecture 19. Grading in the course is not formulaic, but the paper will count approximately 70%, with attendance and participation counting the other 30%.

Originality and Acknowledgment of Sources

The paper must be entirely in your own words, except insofar as you use direct quotations that are marked as such. Except for facts that are common knowledge, you should cite the sources for your information.