Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Not to Write an Abstract

. Sunday, February 17, 2013

We've been blogging about trade and trade networks a decent amount lately, so I was interested to see a new NBER working paper titled "Multinational Firms and the Structure of International Trade". I clicked through and read the abstract, which is:

This article reviews the state of the international trade literature on multinational firms. This literature addresses three main questions. First, why do some firms operate in more than one country while others do not? Second, what determines in which countries production facilities are located? Finally, why do firms own foreign facilities rather than simply contract with local producers or distributors? We organize our exposition of the trade literature on multinational firms around the workhorse monopolistic competition model with constant-elasticity-of-substitution (CES) preferences. On the theoretical side, we review alternative ways to introduce multinational activity into this unifying framework, illustrating some key mechanisms emphasized in the literature. On the empirical side, we discuss the key studies and provide updated empirical results and further robustness tests using new sources of data.
Got it? No? Me either. The point of an abstract is to give a precis of the article's scope, method, and findings. This abstract mentions that there are findings ("provide updated empirical results and further robustness tests") but doesn't say what they are. Neither does it mention what empirical design it uses other than that there is a review of literature. It lists a few questions asked by that literature, but does not answer them.

I've read this abstract four or five times now, and all I want to know is what the structure of international trade is, and I can't tell.

I guess I'll actually have to read the thing.


How Not to Write an Abstract

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