The purpose of the essay is to examine a specific topic in more depth. The essay gives you a chance to
focus on a topic of interest to you.
The essay should contain a literature review and the rest of the essay will discuss an idea, which can be about a suggestion for a research design to distinguish two theories or a proposal for a novel theory. The essay should clearly build upon the ideas and findings presented in the readings for the chosen topic.
The rest of this document provides more information about the topic of the essay, the format, and how the essay will be graded.
Topic of the essay
The essay should focus on a topic in decision-making that the module has covered (i.e., one of the
weekly topics). Two different types of essays are possible:
1. Comparing contrasting explanations. This type of essay examines two different explanations for
a particular finding and suggests an appropriate research design that could distinguish between
the two theories.
o The essay should focus on a particular finding (such as the compromise effect or the
reflection effect in risk taking). The essay should describe the finding and describe at
least two possible explanations of this finding. Then the essay should describe how the
theories could be distinguish and suggest an empirical research design (for instance, an
experiment) that could determine (or help to determine) which theory is correct. There
is no need to actually execute the research, however.
o For example, consider the decoy effect (discussed in lecture 3). Two possible
explanations of this effect include rank dependent evaluations and range dependent
evaluations. How could these two theories be distinguished? What kind of experiment
could one perform?
o There is no need to cover all possible explanations of a particular finding. Rather, I
recommend that you focus on two particular explanations and discuss them in detail.
2. Developing a novel explanation: This type of essay focuses on a particular finding and develops a
novel theoretical explanation of this finding.
o The essay should focus on a particular finding (such as the compromise effect or the
reflection effect in risk taking). The essay should describe the finding and discuss the
mechanism in existing explanations of this finding.
o Then the essay should describe a novel theory, relying on a different mechanism, and
outline how the novel theory explains the finding. The essay should also explain how the
theory differs from existing explanations. In addition, the essay should discuss why the
novel theory might be preferable (is it simpler? Is there evidence consistent with it?). It is
not necessary, in this second type of essay, to describe in detail how the novel theory
could be distinguished, experimentally, from existing theories.
Length: The essay should be 3500 words (this is about 7 single spaced pages). Longer essays will not be accepted.
Structure: The essay should consist of:
1) An introduction (about 300-500 words)
Introducing the topic you will discuss and why it matters, and a very brief summary of
2) A review of the literature relevant to the topic (about 1000 words).
The literature review should cover the finding that the essay will focus on and the typical
explanations for this finding.
3) A careful discussion of the main idea (about 2000 words)
For the first type of essay you here discuss how the explanations you have focused on
could be distinguished. What type of research could be designed to determine which the
correct theory is? Alternatively, could the two theories be distinguished using field data?
How? For the second type of essay you introduce your novel explanation/theory, explain
in detail how this theory works and how it explains the findings, describe how the theory
differs from existing theories, and why the novel theory is useful/preferable to existing
4) A conclusion (about 200 words)
Here you should briefly review your main findings/ideas and explain why they matter for
Formatting: The essay should be single-spaced, with 12-point font.
The paper will be graded on:
a) Your mastery of the theories and findings in the area you choose to focus on (30%).
That is: a) how well do you summarize the theories and findings from the literature and
b) how well do you make use of these theories and findings when developing your idea/
To evaluate this I examine both your literature review and your discussion of the main
idea. Your literature review should be clear and accurate, with explanations of theories
and findings that show you have understood the main ideas. I also evaluate your ability,
in your discussion of your idea, to build upon the theories and findings in your chosen topic.
Note that there is no need to cover all readings or ideas in your essay. Rather choose the
theories and findings that are most relevant for your topic. There are no additional
points for covering more theories or findings, rather focus on a few and discuss them in
detail. Rather: you risk getting a lower grade if you try to cover many different theories
and findings (because you will have to write about them very briefly which does not
enable you to show that you have mastered the frameworks). My advice is to select a
few ideas and findings and concentrate on them in your essay. For example, if your essay
focuses on risk taking, there is no need to cover all theories and findings about risk
taking. Rather, focus on one or two ideas and findings that are relevant for your topic
and which you will build upon in your discussion.
b) The originality and depth of your discussion section (60%).
Regarding originality: Are your ideas interesting and novel? For example, if you have
proposed an empirical research design, is it novel (at least novel in the sense that it is
different from what is discussed in the readings for the course)? For instance, if you
chose to perform an experiment, would your experiment be able to resolve an important
debate in decision research? If you have proposed a novel theory, is the novel theory
new, interesting, and elegant? Can it account, in a clear fashion, for the finding it is
supposed to explain? Is the mechanism the theory relies on original and different from
the mechanism used in existing theories (or is it merely a version of existing theories)?
Regarding the depth: Is your discussion sophisticated and does it show good insight into
the existing theories and findings?
c) The clarity of your writing (10%).
This includes grammar, sentence construction, and spelling. But it also includes the
structure of the essay: are the main ideas well-presented and is the order in which the
material is presented logical? Poor writing reduces the grade, but this is not a course on
English writing so poor writing usually will not lead to a poor grade – unless the writing is
so poor that I cannot understand the main arguments.
Procedures relating to submitted work
Please refer to your Student Handbook regarding how to format your assignment and make submissions
Please ensure that you have inserted a completed assignment coversheet, which must be included
as the first page of your script. The template can be found in your Student Handbook.
When you submit this assessment online, you will be required to tick a declaration box indicating that
the work involved is entirely your own.
We would consider a piece of work to be not entirely your own if it is too reliant on the words of
particular authors (rather than presenting their ideas in your own words), if the essay uses the ideas or words of an author without referencing them or putting their words into quotations, or if your work
suggests that you have worked very closely with another student.
Please read the relevant notes in your Student Handbook – Assessment – Referencing and Avoiding
Plagiarism/cheating carefully and make sure you understand them.
Please note that students who are suspected of submitting work.
Please note that your assignments are viewed by markers for the marking purpose. Any submitted work will not be published in the public domain.
WBS policy is that students are allowed to submit confidential assignments. Once you are ready to
submit your work, there is a confidentiality box under the submission box in the module area on my.wbs which you can tick if you would like your work to be submitted as confidential.
However students are encouraged to learn how to anonymise your work properly so that you can feel
confident enough to submit through the normal route. If, in discussion with your tutor, you find that you are dealing with confidential issues that cannot be anonymised in any meaningful way then please tick the confidentiality box.
The marker will be alerted of any work submitted as confidential as they don’t go through turnitin
detection software and the work will be checked manually by the marker for plagiarism. If the NIE feels that there is no confidential data in the assignment, they may request that turnitin be used – students would then be asked to provide proof of confidentiality.
Late submissions will incur a penalty of 5% per working day late.
For further guidelines about the extension, please check your Student Handbook.
Word Count Information
Number of words 3500 words – this is a strict limit
Penalties This is a strict limit not a guideline: any excess
will not be marked
Included in word count
Images e.g. photographs which include words,
legends for tables, diagrams, charts, figures,
Referencing system: Please use the Harvard referencing system
Hidden text: All text should be included by the word count software, and any attempt to ‘hide’ text will be considered a mis-statement of word count.
Internet material: Should be referenced by URL; links to material not included in the text will be ignored
End of paper