I was going to ask "What are good general ways to ask for help understanding econ papers?" in main Econ SE but the editor suggested it was a subjective question likely to be closed, so I'll ask this in meta instead.

I'm a PhD student in another field with some basic micro understanding (I passed a grad-level micro course, at least, so I can do some of the math after it's explained to me) but in reading papers relevant to my research I often get lost in the math. The proverbial "second pair of eyes" would be helpful.

It's probably often just one sentence or one insight that's hanging me up, but I really need someone willing to read through the paper enough to understand the road block. I can even envision a repository of notes for major papers.

If SE isn't a good place to ask for this sort of help, are there other sources of help? I've even thought of hiring a tutor through my university's econ department.


2 Answers 2


I think it would be ok as long as the question is specific and is reasonably self-contained. Here is a question that I asked earlier that you might use as an example: Derivation on p.99 of Salanie, The Economics of Taxation (2nd edition)


Walking through papers? No. Try chat for that. Chat is asynchronous, so if you want to post something there, don't wait for a bunch of people to arrive, just post it, and people will pick it up and reply as they see it.

As jmbejara says, the main site is for asking specific, self-contained answerable questions, for which a single answer of a 1-5 paragraphs could be definitively identified as the right answer.

  • $\begingroup$ I probably didn't make what I'm proposing clear enough, so I can't tell if your suggestion applies to what I'm proposing or to something else. Suppose I'm interested in this paper: $\endgroup$ Apr 17, 2016 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the specific paper doesn't matter. But suppose there's one point in the model I don't understand. So I'm not looking for hand-holding throughout the entire paper, but rather for help getting myself unstuck on one point. I believe one answer could be definitively identified--after all, the author used that particular phrasing to mean something concrete, and the reviewers didn't complain about it, so in theory (if not always in practice!) it should have one meaning to trained economists. $\endgroup$ Apr 17, 2016 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ Note also that if 50 people all asked about different parts of some famous paper, and each person tagged the question appropriately, we'd end up with a nice little reader's guide to that paper! $\endgroup$ Apr 17, 2016 at 4:38

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