Are diagram labels, axes labels and diagram titles included in the word count?. No. But diagram descriptions / explanations are.
Can I put line graphs, bar charts or pie charts in my commentary? No, not unless there is one already in the article. If there is one, just talk about it in the commentary, don’t reproduce it.
Must you include a bibliography at the end? No. Only include footnotes at the bottom of each page which reference your sources. Bibliographies at the end are not needed.
Can I use an article in a language that is not English? Yes, but provide a translation.
Can I use economics diagrams that are copied and pasted from the internet? Yes, provided you reference their source as a footnote at the bottom of the page.
Can I put definitions of specialist economic terms in the footnotes? No, they must go in the main body.
Can I quote from the article? Yes, but don’t do it too much because it uses up a lot of your word count. Indeed, I would only do it once, and then if you want to refer to another line or paragraph in the article write (L3) or (P4) at the end of the sentence. This saves your word count.
Can I write more than three commentaries and then just submit the best three? Theoretically yes, providing your teacher agrees with this.
If you want top grades in your coursework, you need to be able to prove skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Commentaries that just describe or restate the information in the article, tend to get low marks. These skills are difficult to do and take time and practice to acquire.
What is analysis? When you analyze something, you look at it in a lot of detail, you break it down into it’s component parts and try and make links or connections between the different parts.
What is synthesis? A summary of the available information that you have – describing or explaining a complex thing in a shorter, more easily understood way.
Evaluation involves looking at something in a critical way and coming up with your own opinion on it, backed up by sufficient evidence.
All of the above skills are difficult to do, but evaluation is probably the hardest. What could you evaluate in your commentary?
An economic situation, policy or strategy.
How can you do this when writing your commentary?
Critically assess the article. Is it biased? Does the writer leave out important information that you think should be included? Are the writer’s conclusions appropriate?
What are the advantages / disadvantages of the policies outlined in the article? What are the most important advantages and the most important disadvantages?
What are the short and long-term consequences of the economic strategies outlined in the article? Which groups (stakeholders) in the economy benefit and why? Which lose out and why?
What are the causes of the economic situation / consequences of the economic policies outlined in the article? Which are the most important causes and consequences and why? What are the remedies?
If there is data in the article, is it appropriate, reliable, relevant and accurate?
When using an economic theory, demonstrate a critical awareness of the theory. Explain the assumptions behind the theory. Are the assumptions realistic? Is the theory relevant and appropriate to the economic situation outlined in the article?
You should analyze, synthesize and evaluate throughout your commentary, but the evaluation should probably occur more towards the end of your commentary, just before your concluding paragraph (see the commentary structure diagram in Step Three – Writing Up Your Commentary ). In your concluding paragraph, you express your opinion, which finalizes your evaluation in the commentary.
Diagrams are essential to economics. When you draw a diagram to explain or illustrate an economics situation, you are demonstrating your ‘ application’ skills – applying the theory we learn in class to explain or illustrate an economic situation. If you want top marks for your coursework, your diagram have to be excellent.
The following are a list of rules to follow:-
1) Diagrams should be large – around one-third of a page in size.
2) Always label the axes appropriately – eg “Price of Cars” , not just “Price” and “Quantity of Oil (Barrels per Year) ” not just “Quantity”.
3) Indicate the equilibrium points with dotted lines to the axes, with notation on the axes such as Q1 to Q2 or AD1 to AD2
4) You must use ARROWS to show the direction of any change i.e. a shift in a curve, an increase or decrease in price.
5) Do not confuse Macro and Microeconomics in your labeling! Eg it is ” Price” in Microeconomics and “Price Level” in Macroeconomics.
6) Most of your diagrams should be dynamic not static (i.e. they are illustrating some process of economic change). In other words curves must shift, prices change etc.
7) Do not BEGIN or END your commentary with a diagram. They must be located in the main body of the commentary.
8) Always explain and describe your diagrams, with explanations / descriptions coming AFTER the diagram. You must refer to specific lines and points AND you must use the diagram labels!
9) Label your diagrams “Diagram 1”, “Diagram 2” or “Figure 1”, “Figure 2” etc so that you can easily refer to them in your analysis.
Here is an example of an excellent diagram with a good explanation:-
The maximum word count for each commentary is 750 words. It is vitally important to write as close as possible up to this limit i.e. 749 words! In order to maximize your marks, you will have to do a lot of things – write an introduction and conclusion, draw one or two diagrams, explain and describe each one, define some economic terms and concepts that you are using, directly refer to the article etc. All of this takes up a lot of your word count! For this reason make sure you use as much of your word count as possible.
I give my students the following diagram to help them:-
In this case the commentary is two pages long and is made up of 8 paragraphs of writing. It includes 2 diagrams and each diagram is explained and described underneath. There is an introductory and concluding paragraph. (You don’t need to give them these subtitles, bye-the-way. Indeed, your commentary should not include any subtitles. It should just be composed of series of paragraphs, like a mini-essay).
Your article sources must be news media sources, containing the latest news about an economics issue. Remember: you cannot use the same source for more than one commentary. Each source should be different for each commentary.
Notice something. The Economist magazine and the Financial Times are not on the above list. It is not recommended that you choose articles from these publications because they already analyse and evaluate the economic situation that they are talking about within the article itself. You are expected to do this within your commentary.
Also be warned. Some of the above news sources allow you to view an article once, but the next time you login you are asked to subscribe to the publication, and you cannot see the article again. If you see a good article, therefore, copy and paste it into another document straight away!
One of the first mistakes students new to economics make is to choose an inappropriate article for their commentary. So the first thing that you need to do is to find a good one.
I give my students this checklist to help them, when they are looking for articles:-
When looking for commentary articles, you need to take the following into consideration:-
Is the article a recent one? It must be no older than a year old from today’s date. (I am even stricter with regard to how recent the article should be – see the checklist!)
Is the article from a news media source? The article must be ‘ contemporaneous ‘ i.e. recent, and it must come from a news website or from a news source. For example, this source would be inappropriate because it is an educational website, not a news media website.
Is the article not too lengthy? About a page or a page and a half of A4 writing is about the right size.
Is there economic language and terminology in the article? For example, does it mention demand, supply or price? Does it mention exchange rates, appreciation, depreciation or government intervention in the foreign exchange markets? These are concepts contained in the economics syllabus, so the article must mention or talk about, two, three or four of these concepts.
Is the article too ‘ business’ orientated? Business and economics are very similar subjects, but be careful not to choose an article that only talks about one company, it’s business strategies, it’s revenues, profits, losses etc. For example, this article, is too ‘business’ orientated. It mentions issues related to business ( workers rights, treatment of workers etc.) but hardly mentions anything linked to the economics syllabus. The only exception is if you are a HL student who is wanting to do a commentary on the Theory of the Firm topic. In this case, a business article could be appropriate.
Has the article got too much politics in it? Economics and politics are two closely related subjects, but if your article talks a lot about political parties, their strategies, elections etc., then it probably has too much politics in it. This article, for example, although it is about the EU, a trading bloc, which is on the syllabus, has probably too much politics in it and should therefore be avoided.
Could you draw one or two economics diagrams to illustrate what the article is talking about? This is vitally important if you want to maximize your marks.
Is the article interesting to read? There are a lot of quite good article with economic content in them, but they can be quite dull. Does your article contain an interesting twist in it that makes it stand out from other articles?