referee report

Write a referee report on the following paper:

Boarnet, Marlon, and William T. Bogart. 1996. “Enterprise Zones and Employment: Evidence from New Jersey.” Journal of Urban Economics 110: 198-215

Given that this is an old paper, after completing the characterization and assessment of the paper itself (i.e. the referee report proper) you are asked to very briefly relate this paper with subsequent literature by finding one subsequent paper that either

complements/ reinforces the arguments or findings in the referred paper

contradicts or has different findings from the referred paper

offers a different explanation for the same phenomena/ facts discussed in the refereed paper

looks at a similar question but offers a methodological improvement relative to the refereed paper (e.g. better theoretical model, better empirical strategy etc.)

is related to the refereed paper in some other illuminating way

Clarification: You do NOT need to find multiple papers to cover all the criteria 1 to 4 above, but just one paper covering one of the criteria and discuss its relationship to the referred paper (Example: “In relationship to this paper, we find that in the study X (2005) authors Y improve on the identification strategy by…”)


While I do not want to be very strict on the word limit, I strongly advise you keep the extended referee report below 1500 words. I think you can do a great job in even less, and will be assessing the reports on quality not quantity.

Report Guidelines

The object of a referee report is to offer the editor of an academic journal your opinion on the refereed paper so as to inform the editor’s decision on whether the paper should be published in the journal or not. As a result, writing referee reports performs a crucial “quality control” role in the dissemination of research. For our purposes, the main point of this exercise will be to challenge you to critically evaluate research.

A referee report does two main things: I. Describe the paper and II. Evaluate the paper. In what follows I provide an outline I typically use when writing reports:

Describe the paper

What does the paper do? Is it an empirical paper, a theoretical paper, or a paper containing both theory and empirics?

How does the paper do what it does? Describe the methodology. For theory paper, briefly discuss the mechanism of the model. For an empirical paper describe the data and estimation strategy.

What does the paper find?

Evaluate the paper.

What do you like about the paper? Why is the paper interesting? What bits of the methodology do you like about the paper?

 What don’t you like about the paper? Does the empirical analysis have internal validity? Does it have external validity? Are the assumptions of any of the theoretical results sensible? Is the data good and appropriate for the task at hand? Is the model convincing and elegant? (for the questions in red, if the answer is yes, then the item should feature as an item you like about the paper, I just suggest here questions you may ask yourself to find limitations of the paper).

Note that in the evaluation part of the report you can say just about anything you want about the paper, as long as you can back it up and you are polite about it.

Guidelines for the “Extended” Part of the Task

The extension part of the task asks you to relate the referred paper with a subsequent study looking at the same or similar research question. The point of this task is to teach you to perform quick literature searches and to compare and contrast two papers in terms of their methodologies, findings and/or precise research questions. I also hope this task will give you a bit of a taster about how progress happens in academic research.

For the literature search bit of the task (i.e. actually identifying similar subsequent papers) I suggest you try to find papers that cite the refereed paper via Google Scholar, or try to find  survey articles (e.g. Handbook of Urban and Regional Economics chapters, Journal of Economic Surveys articles, other survey articles) that comment on the relevant literature, and compare and contrast studies in the relevant literature (these could also, of course, help your analysis)

Further Guidance for Extended Referee Report Task – Seminar 1


As promised, I will try to provide further guidance on this task by providing a sample extended referee report analysis during Seminar 1. To make sure you benefit fully from Seminar 1, make sure you read the paper that will be the object of my sample extended referee report in seminar 1. This paper will be:



Glaeser, Edward L., José Scheinkman, and Andrei Shleifer. 1995. “Economic Growth in a Cross-Section of Cities.” Journal of Monetary Economics 36: 117-43.

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