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+8 votes
asked ago in Current Economic Issues by (2.2k points)
Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution is discussing the new AEA Data Editor.  See https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/07/the-aeas-new-data-policy.html#comment-159961954

How about extending the policy to theory papers, including econometric theory? I'd like having the proofs laid out step-by-step in an online appendix, with an AER special editor making the author clarify all the hardest steps where the author is tempted to say "Obviously,..." or "Using standard methods,..." or even just "It follows that..." when it doesn't clearly follow. We're all tempted by that, and it's too much to expect referees to check proofs carefully--- and even if they do, that doesn't help readers.
commented ago by (2.2k points)
I recently discovered that Mathematica 12 allows Export to *.tex format. I'm adding a proof-and-figure-construction appendix to my next working paper, since that makes it much easier.

3 Answers

+1 vote
answered ago by (710 points)
Here here! As my intro to proof professor always said about "obviously" and "clearly": If it's so obvious, it should be easy to show, and if it's so "clear", why did you need to tell me it was?

EDIT: And less snarkily, obviousness is highly path dependent. What is clear as day to you as the author, who has been working on the proofs for the past 6 months, is rarely obvious to a new reader.
+1 vote
answered ago by (170 points)
I support this idea. When I closely follow theory papers published in Top 5, I find quite a lot of typos, which prevent efficient reading.  Sometimes those typos are not so obvious to detect and make me doubt whether the proof is even correct.
+2 votes
answered ago by (1.5k points)
In David Lodge's brilliant novel "Small World", one character is writing a paper where he poses an important question, but has no answer. So his paper ends with the word "Clearly ..." That is so perceptive. "Obviously" and "Clearly" are very often used in support of claims that are not obvious or clear at all, in the hope that readers will think themselves stupid for not seeing it, and therefore just accept the statement and carry on. Sometimes these devices are known as "proof by assertion" or "proof by intimidation".
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