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Final Theses

We offer supervision for students that show interest in our offered topics and ongoing research on both the bachelor and master levels. If you are interested in writing a final thesis under supervision of our working group, please make sure to read the following document before contacting us:  

Information/advice for your final thesis

Please note that we are a relatively small research group and at times we might therefore be unable to satisfy all requests for thesis supervision!

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen Bachelor Thesis TopicsBachelor Thesis Topics

    Even though we are a relatively small research group, we receive numerous requests for bachelor thesis supervision. Unfortunately, the recent amount of requests forced us to follow somewhat stricter principles in accepting students for a bachelor thesis with our research group.

    Thus, bachelor students are kindly expected to formulate at least a basic exposé of an original topic idea that is also expected to be thematically related to the topics covered in our bachelor courses and seminars.

    Additionally, we encourage students to attach a voluntary plagiarism check to their bachelor thesis. Such services are e.g. provided by Scribbr or Plagscan.

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen Master Thesis TopicsMaster Thesis Topics

    Master students are also encouraged to propose original ideas. However, we like to incorporate master students into our research projects by encouraging them to write their master theses on topics related to those projects. Here you can find a list of currently available topics:

    The role of mental models in determining smallholder farmers’ agricultural water management in India.

    This thesis shall explore whether differences in mental models including system understanding, attitudes and norms have an influence on individual and collective water management of smallholder farmers in India. For assessing this relationship, empirical data can be used which were collected in the BMZ-funded project on Scaling up experiential learning tools for sustainable water governance in India led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The project examines the effectiveness of experiential learning approaches in creating awareness and receptivity to changing water management practices. The project’s theory of change assumes that influencing mental models through experiential learning can trigger behavioural change. The objective of this thesis is to assess in a first step whether differences in mental models can explain different behaviour already prior to the interventions. Data from 2350 individuals in 472 habitations of three states in India can be used for assessing this question. The data contain site and individual level information on different aspects of mental models, institutional factors, management practices, and relevant control variable.

    Working on this topic would require to synthesize theoretical concepts related to mental models in the context of behavioural change. It would further entail econometric analyses of the medium size data set.

    The thesis would be a valuable contribution to the aforementioned project. A publication at least as an IFPRI working paper is desired. The research group Sustainable Use of Natural Resources will facilitate the application for a scholarship of the Council for Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural Research to support this research. For more details, please contact Dr. Thomas Falk,

    Increasing the rate of household connection to the central wastewater system in Vietnam

    Rapid urbanization and growing population make the environment severely polluted in developing countries. In Vietnam, the KfW Development Bank finances the Project Wastewater and Solid Waste Management in Provincial Towns, which help to improve the conditions for sustainable wastewater treatment and solid waste management. The central wastewater system (CWS) has been constructed and implemented in large cities and provinces. However, the amount of wastewater was collected and treated in urban areas is still very low. As part of the KfW research project, our group will conduct interviews, surveys, and a randomized controlled trial in four towns in Vietnam, helping us solve the question of increasing the rate of household connection to the CWS in Vietnam.
    We are eager to incorporate our master students in our research projects directly and give them the possibility to implement surveys and interventions and work on data from the field within the scope of their master thesis. The main research questions to be worked on this topic are:

    (1) What are the determinants of the low rate of household connection to the central wastewater system in Vietnam?
    (2) What are the potential behavioral interventions that might increase the rate of household connections to the central wastewater system in Vietnam?
    (3) Do the identified behavioral interventions increase the rate of household connections to the central wastewater system in Vietnam?

    supervised by Björn Vollan, Arne Weiss (C4ED Mannheim), Dzung Bui (AG Macroeconomics) and Lara Bartels (ZEW Mannheim)

    Migration and the sunk cost effect

    The consequences of climate change are forcing many to move away from the places they live at. Floods, sea level rise, and heavy winds are threatening people living in exposed areas. At the same time, studies find a low willingness of people to move away from their current location. Among the reasons named in the literature are place attachment, fear of a new, unknown place, and lack of resource. One further factor possibly reducing the willingness of people to move away might be the resources and time already invested in the land they are living at. While from an economic viewpoint these costs invested in the past should be irrelevant for decisions concerning the future, this may not be the case in reality. This discrepancy is labeled “sunk cost fallacy”. We conducted survey in a highly exposed area in southwest Bangladesh to test this possibility. The research questions to be worked on in this topic are:

    (1)   What are the determinants of the decision to migrate internally?
    (2)   What role do sunk cost play in the decision of people to (not) move to places safe from future consequences of climate change [e.g. floods, erosion, sea level rise]?

    Exposure to environmental hazards, migration, and poverty

    Exposure to environmental hazards such as floods, erosion, and heavy winds deprives affected of their resources. Often people with lower resource in the first place are more vulnerable to environmental hazards as they have less possibilities to protect themselves and may settle to cheaper areas with higher risks. In this way, environmental hazards may contribute to a self-enforcing dynamic making it impossible for those affected to improve their economic situation, i.e. be trapped in poverty. To explore this possibility, a survey in a highly exposed area in southwest Bangladesh was conducted. The research questions to be worked on in this topic are:

    (1)   How does exposure to environmental hazards affect peoples well-being?
    (2)   What are the effects of migration on the social network, psychological well-being, education, etc.?

    Chronic poverty and agency

    In economic theory it is assumed that people can get trapped in poverty and be unable to escape from there without help from outside (a push). Hence, it is assumed that in such a situation of self-enforcing poverty people lose their agency to improve their economic situation. To test whether individuals in chronic poverty do actually feel a reduced sense of agency regarding their economic situation survey in a highly exposed area in southwest Bangladesh. The survey included items to allow a measure of chronic poverty, as well as sense of agency. The main research question of this block is:

    (1)   Do people classified as being trapped in poverty feel reduced agency?

    Beyond these self-stated perception data, ways to measure and operationalize actual agency of participants. Therefore, this master thesis topic also contains a data search task to answer the question:

    (2)   Do people classified as being trapped in poverty actually have no agency?

    Negotiations in a climate summit

    The dominant social theory for explaining and predicting outcomes in climate negotiations but, more importantly, also in designing frameworks for international collective action on climate change in recent years has been game theory especially non-cooperative game theory such as the prisoner dilemma. Game theory assumes that the involved parties act fully rational, according to their best self-interest and given their assumed conflict of interest behave uncooperative. Yet, we do not know whether negotiators indeed implicitly or explicitly follow the game theoretical logic. We conducted an online survey with delegates of a major climate summit. Potential research question of this master thesis could be:

    - Do delegates view climate negotiations as zero-sum game (i.e. prisoner dilemma)?
    - Do they act strategically when formulating their NDC?
    - Does economic theory on negotiations reflect delegates actual negotiation behavior?
    - What important heterogeneities are there between delegates from different countries or different disciplines?

    The long-term impacts of rural electrifcation programs using solar technology

    In light of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and their Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative, which stipulated the goal of achieving global universal electrification until 2030, large-scale solar electrification projects in rural areas of developing countries become more and more attractive. This is because of solar energy's double appeal as it produces no emissions in energy generation and also is a relatively cheap way to give electricity access to people who live in more remote and poorer areas of the developing world. As part of the SUFI research project, our group conducted a large-scale household survey in rural Sindh, Pakistan from late 2020 to early 2021, with which we hope to learn more about long-term impacts and future implications of large-scale solar electrification campaigns. We are eager to incorporate our master students in our research projects directly and give them the possibility to work on fresh data from the field within the scope of their master thesis.

    Potential research questions that could be tackled include:

    - Analysing the long-term socioeconomic impact of a large-scale solar electrifcation program using quasi-experimental methods with household and village level data
    - Identification and analysis of the barriers (financial? cultural?) standing in the way of a more widespread acceptance and use of solar electricity among rural households
    - How does prior (positive or negative) experience with solar home systems affect future purchasing decisions regarding such systems?
    - What role do socioeconomic and cultural factors play and how do they affect local preferences regarding solar electrification?
    - In how far does user experience and satisfaction with solar electricity differ from other electrification forms typically used in rural electrification programs (e.g grid extension)?