Improved reasoning in undergraduate writing through structured workshops

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© 2015 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. The Department of Economics at Duke University has endeavored to increase participation in undergraduate honors thesis research while ensuring a high-quality learning experience. Given the faculty-to-student ratio in the department (approximately 1:16), increasing research participation required the creation of a stable, replicable framework for mentoring students through research. The department aimed to make the research experience more consistent and interactive so that students also learned from each other in a group setting. Here, the authors assess the relationship between changes in mentoring support of honors research and students scientific reasoning and writing skills reflected in their undergraduate theses. They find that students who participated in structured courses designed to support and enhance their research exhibited the strongest learning outcomes, as measured by systematic writing assessment.





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Dowd, JE, MP Connolly, RJ Thompson and JA Reynolds (2015). Improved reasoning in undergraduate writing through structured workshops. Journal of Economic Education, 46(1). pp. 14–27. 10.1080/00220485.2014.978924 Retrieved from

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Michelle P. Connolly

Professor of the Practice of Economics

Michelle P. Connolly is Professor of the Practice in the Economics Department at Duke University.

Professor Connolly previously served as Chief Economist of the Federal Communications Commission in 2006-2007 and 2008-2009, and as an Economist for the International Research Function for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1996 to 1997.

Professor Connolly currently serves as the Director of the Honors Program in Economics and Chair of the Trinity College Arts & Sciences Committee on Curriculum.  She  previously served on the Duke Alumni Association Board  (2012-2016), as Director of EcoTeach (the instructional arm of the Economics Department), and as the founding Economics Director of the Duke in New York: Financial Markets and Institutions Program (2007-2009).

Professor Connolly has been recognized on multiple occasions for her teaching.  At Duke, she was awarded the Howard D. Johnson Trinity College Teaching Prize in 2011 and has been recognized as being among the top five percent of Duke University Undergraduate Instructors (2009, 2010, 2011, 2017, 2020). As a graduate student at Yale, she received the Raymond Powell Teaching Prize (1994).

Professor Connolly’s research currently focuses on broadband and spectrum policy, though her body of research includes work in international trade, telecommunications policy, media policy, education, growth, and development. She has received funding for her research from the National Science Foundation, the Duke Arts and Sciences Research Council Grants, the Spencer Grant, and the Teagle Grant. 

Professor Connolly has published in numerous journals, including the American Economic Review, the American Economic Journal:  Macroeconomics, the Journal of Development Economics, the Journal of Economic History, the Journal of Economic Growth, the Review of Industrial Organization, and Current Issues in Economics and Finance.

In 2011, Professor Connolly testified before Congress and participated in a White House panel on Spectrum Issues. She has been presenting her work at university seminars and international conferences since 1996. Some of her appearances were at the ACLP Advanced Communications 2009 Summit, where she was a panelist and moderator, at the conference on “Wireless Technologies: Enabling Innovation and Economic Growth”, where she served as a keynote panelist, and at the Martin H. Crego Lecture in Economics, an all college Lecture at Vassar College. In 2013 Professor Connolly was awarded a National Science Foundation Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace Grant, “Dollars for Hertz: Making Trustworthy Spectrum Sharing Technically and Economically Viable.”

Michelle Connolly graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude, and with the William Massee Prize for Excellence in Economics (best academic grade record in the economics major) from Yale University in 1990.  She went on to earn her M.A. and M.Phil and finally her Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1996.

Robert J. Thompson

Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience

My research and teaching interests include how biological and psychosocial processes act together in human development and learning. One area of focus has been on the adaptation of children and their families to developmental problems and chronic illnesses, including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis. Another area of focus is enhancing undergraduate education through scholarship on teaching and learning and fostering the development of empathy and identity.


Julie Reynolds

Associate Professor of the Practice of the Department of Biology

Julie Reynolds has a Ph.D. in biology but, through a series of unexpected events, became an expert in writing pedagogies. She spent 5 years learning to teach writing as a postdoctoral fellow in Duke University’s first-year writing program before transitioning to the biology department where she has taught science writing and writing-intensive courses to thousands of undergraduates and graduate students. With over a decade of funding from the National Science Foundation, her disciplinary-based education research has focused on how writing assignments can promote deep, conceptual learning, especially in large science courses. Dr. Reynolds is also a writing coach and has helped hundreds of scientists across the country to increase their productivity while reducing stress associated with writing.

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