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My essay submission for Q-Step (HT–TT 2018)
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Q-Step Essay submission

In Hilary Term 2018, I wrote an essay as part of my studies at university. This essay is

expected to provide an empirical answer to one of the three questions listed below that deal with Lijphart’s regime type classification and its consequences:

  1. Does consensus democracy reduce social inequality?
  2. Does consensus democracy improve economic outcomes?
  3. Does consensus democracy improve the quality of government?

I chose the first question, "Does consensus democracy reduce social inequality?" I used an R notebook to do my scratch work and preliminary data exploration, then wrote the essay in Markdown and used pandoc to compile it into essay.pdf.

I also knit the notebook into HTML and exported it to pdf. The reason why I couldn't export it directly to PDF is because that process gets rid of the code highlighting and I couldn't find a way to fix that.

Lastly, I stapled the two PDFs together into the final essay.

This essay won the 2018 prize. I was happy that Professor Andrew Eggers and Professor David Kirk were pleased with my work.

'This outstanding essay offered an excellent overview of the literature and showed impressive ambition and skill in extending Lijphart's dataset and analysis. Most importantly, it demonstrated a mature capacity to critique and build on existing literature theoretically and methodologically.


Things to take note

I commented out the first line install-packages but you may have to uncomment it to install the requisite packages.

The command I used for pandoc was something like

pandoc --filter pandoc-citeproc -V papersize:a4 -o essay.pdf

which runs the Markdown file through the pandoc-citeproc filter and replaces my references smartly.

Things I learned

I learned about R. At my level, R isn't really programming, you just Google for the right library or function that does exactly what you want to do. It is the epitome of "library whacking". I would like to learn how to write custom functions in R.

I learned a bit of statistical knowledge: what is Cronbach's alpha, what is R-squared, and so on. But only on a very surface level; I didn't bother going into the maths, I merely Googled them perfunctorily and agak-agak read enough to reference it in my essays.

More importantly, I learned a lot about workflow:

  • I learned about how bibliographies work in \TeX documents.
  • I now have a better understanding of how pandoc works and I don't think I will be going back to Google Docs or writing \LaTeX by hand ever again.
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