Ash Paper

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HARD COPY due in class on Tues 2 Oct


Wish Lanterns follow 6 young Chinese, 3 women and men, all born in the mid/late 1980s. They’re not representative in that all are college graduates, and were city-bred. By 2000, around when they entered college, urban China was already prosperous, and was near peak growth. How could they not do well? At the same time, the structure of the economy is very different, and with higher incomes go different expectations. This paper asks you to explore this transition.

How do their lives differ from those of their parents? Focus on concrete decisions: career, housing, life partners, consumption patterns. The most thorough approach is to quote page after page of the book. Not feasible, and not a good paper. So how to scale it down?

Defining Your Topic

  • Use one woman and one man as the core of your analysis. While it probably makes sense to contrast briefly with the others, hold that compare and contrast to 2 paragraphs.
  • Pick one topic, not two. Here is a non-exhaustive list of potential topics.
  1. Marriage – what is its perceived value to your focal pair, and to their parents?
  2. Career: how does the perception of the job/career differ between parents and their child?
  3. Stability: what does stability mean, how bit a priority should it be, and how does one go about obtaining it?
  4. Avocation: is that a concept the old generation would recognize? the new?
  5. Social contribution: does that come up? does what someone do matter, other than as it contributes to family and stability? or is it family first, and nothing else really matters?


  • You should clearly state your topic in the first paragraph, ideally the first sentence, and if not then in the last sentence.
  • Your conclusion should not summarize the paper. It should instead should focus on following up on the body of the paper. Examples:
  1. This paper analyzed xxx. However, I conclude that yyyy would provide a more telling issue. Doing so might raise zzz, which was not relevant for my topic …
  2. Here I focused on two people who graduated from college. While that’s useful [why!], such individuals are a minority. In passing the book notes aaa and bbb as things important to young Chinese who lacked such education [one sentence on each example] …
  • Use the Williams Communication Center!
  • Length: as needed to make your argument. Think in terms of paragraphs, not pages and certainly not word count.
    • Your first paragraph may be all you need for your introduction.
    • Another 2 paragraphs should indicate your analytic framework, how you will approach the issue, and what you will not do.
    • You then need 3 paragraphs (and perhaps as many as 5 paragraphs) developing your argument of each individual you chose.
    • Then comes your conclusion, which might be 2 paragraphs.

    That comes to 1 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 2 = 11 paragraphs. You can get by with less, you shouldn’t do much more.

  • Prose and format: readable font and margins, lean prose. Don’t use the passive voice – writing in first person helps. Avoid indefinite modifiers: “a few” “some” “often” diminish the impact of your argument. If you delete such terms, you still have a proper sentence. And is the reader misled? – generally the context makes the approximate magnitude clear.
  • Sweat the first paragraph. If you stumble on page 4, your reader is going to keep reading, and has already gotten the majority of what you want to say. If you stumble in the first paragraph, your paper will never come across as good.

Bibliography examples

Ash, Alec (2018). Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China. London: Picador.

Bosworth, Barry P. and Collins, Susan M. (2007). “Accounting for Growth: Comparing China and India.” NBER Working Paper No. 12943.

Huang, Jikun, Otsuka, Keijiro and Rozelle, Scott (2008). “Agriculture in China’s Development: Past Disappointments, Recent Successes, and Future Challenges.” In: Loren Brandt and Thomas G. Rawski, eds., China’s Great Economic Transformation. New York: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 13, pp. 467-505.

Luo, Renfu, Zhang, Linxiu, Huang, Jikun and Rozelle, Scott (2007). “Elections, fiscal reform and public goods provision in rural China.” Journal of Comparative Economics, 35, pp. 583-611.

Ogle, Maureen (2006). Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Books.