So, here I was. After all, I had planned to make it nice and easy on myself after my experience with an external BSc thesis. Do the thesis combined with an internship in an existing project. The research would be difficult enough on its own, no need for the extra challenge of coming up with my own project. So my thinking.
But then some circumstances forced me to rethink my plan. And I chose not to travel too far away abroad this time. But now I needed to come up with a good thesis project of my own. Just how do you start?
First, I decided to go back to my home country Germany. Second, I figured out that I was interested in understanding how people can bring about positive change in society, particularly in terms of agrobiodiversity conservation. Last but not least, I wanted to stick with the technographic and mechanism approach put forward by my supervisor Sietze Vellema (TAD). After a month of brain breaking exercise, these three key ingredients finally added up to a thesis proposal. Looking back, the most important step was finding the case study. Only this enabled me to make my research ideas more concrete and feasible.
I ended up on a small farm in the middle of Germany, investigating how an elderly couple managed to maintain their farming business conserving old livestock breeds. You might think now - what did they do that for? Well, animal genetic diversity cannot as easily be preserved in a freezer as is done with plant seeds, so a group of people engage in so-called "in-situ" conservation. Is it profitable? Most of the times: no. And that is exactly what I was interested in. In addition, the fieldwork came with hands-on animal care, a nice counterbalance to field diary writing and analysis.
In the end, the results of my case study are not representative. But they do hint at some core mechanisms of how people can make it work to maintain their little niche.
Putting together a systematic report from a big pile of notes was definitely not easy. Also in comparison to my former training as an agricultural engineer, social science research poses completely different challenges and uses different methods, not to mention a different way of thinking. However, the process was a very enriching experience in which I certainly developed my skills as a researcher.
Having graduated from MAKS (now called MDR), I especially appreciate how it enabled me to discover my passion for the social sciences. In order to really understand what makes the MAKS experience so special, you have to experience it yourself. But let me try to give you an impression: Enthusiasm and passion for your subject, eagerness and openness to learn new things, friendship and companionship within an intercultural group.