Summer School Seminar 2018: Experiments in Economics

Course content

Over the past decades, experimental techniques have become an integral part of modern empirical economics. The aim of the seminar is to familiarize students with fundamental results and methods in experimental economics. In particular, the course will highlight key aspects in designing laboratory or field experiments (RCTs) and basic elements of behavioral outcome evaluations.  After studying the main advantages and limitations of experiments, students will learn how to design an economic experiment and apply experimental techniques to a selected research question. Possible topics include experimental evaluations of policy interventions in health, education, public finance, or labor economics, experimental analyses of charitable giving, saving and consumer behavior, etc.


Student projects can take various forms:

  • One possibility is to replicate and extend the empirical analysis of a published article, using the article’s dataset or by designing a replication study.

  • Another possibility is to develop a design for an own lab or field experiment. This includes identifying a research question, deriving theoretical hypothesis, describing the experimental design and strategy to analyze the empirical outcomes, and ideally collect first pilot data.

  • Both project formats are an ideal preparation for subsequently conducting an empirical investigation for a MSc thesis.

  • Students are allowed (and encouraged) to work in groups of two.


Examples of student projects from previous semesters:

  • Analyzing Ethnic Biases in the Shared Flat Market

  • Stereotypes, Trust, and Reputation: An Experiment with Street Vendors

  • Exposing Free-Riders in Public Goods Games

  • Not Only Labor Leads to Love: A Re-analysis of the IKEA Effect

  • The Power of Apologies: a Field Experiment on Ebay

  • Reference points and voluntary payments


MSc programme in Economics

The seminar is primarily for students at the MSc of Economics


Learning outcome

After completing the course, the student should be able to:



  • review recent findings in experimental economics


  • know different experimental techniques and be able to use them in designing an experiment in the lab or field


  • apply experimental methods to answer a selected question in economics or public policy

Kick-off meeting, research and writing process of the seminar paper, sessions with presentation of own paper and critical evaluation/feedback to another student´s paper, actively participating in discussions at class.

Before the session a "so-finalized-as-possible"-draft of the paper must be uploaded in Absalon. After the presentations, the student submit an edited version of the paper in the Digital Exam portal as the final exam paper. The aim is that students use the presentation sessions as an opportunity to receive and use the constructive feedback to improve the paper.

The following surveys give an introduction to topics and methods of the seminar. Further references will be provided in the beginning of the course.

  • Croson, R. and S. Gächter (2010): “The science of experimental economics”, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 73 (1), 122-131 à good first introduction

  • Duflo, E., R. Glennerster, and M. Kremer (2008), Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit, in: P.Schultz and J.A. Strauss (Eds.), Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier, Ed.1, Vol. 4(5). à excellent overview article on experimental methodology for field experiments (with a focus on development economics)

  • Roth, A.E. (1995). Introduction to Experimental Economics. In Kagel, J.H. and Roth, A.E. (eds.) Handbook of Experimental Economics. Princeton University Press. Chapter 1. à classic, but still very good introduction to experimental economics


There will also be a limited number of topics for which I can provide a suitable dataset (more info later).


Students should have a sound knowledge of microeconomic theory and empirical methods at a level equivalent to the courses "Microecononics I-III" and "Econometrics I-II".

If students are interested in experiments with a Behavioral Economics focus, it is recommended that they have followed the course “Foundations of Behavioral Economics” before or in parallel to the seminar.

Students will also benefit from previous or concurrent attendance of the Summer School on “Behavioral and Experimental Economics”.


• Kick-off meeting: June 7 and 8, 2018 9.00-17.00
• Deadline project description (commitment paper): June 22, 2018 at 10am.
• Progress meeting: June 29 (tbc).
• Deadline of pre-paper uploaded to Absalon : August 15
• Workshop of oral presentations: August 23-24, 9-18h (tbc)

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
- a seminar paper in English that meets the formal requirements for written papers stated in the curriculum and at KUNet for seminars.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the seminar and the objectives stated in the Curriculum.

To receive the top grade, the student must with no or only a few minor weaknesses be able to demonstrate an excellent performance displaying a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes.


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 20
  • Project work
  • 186
  • English
  • 206