IEE Newsletter No. 22

MADM: MADM Students Conducting Practical Field Research in many Places of the World

In the past months students of the current intake of the MADM were on field research for their master thesis projects. Qamer Jatoi from Pakistan shares his experiences during this challenging, yet rewarding phase of the master programme.

Gathering data in the field is one of the outstanding and obligatory features of the MADM programme. This component trains the master students to prepare and conduct field research for their individual research projects. The opportunity to collect primary data – rather than just conducting desk research – broadens the spectrum of possible research questions addressed by the students. In addition, the field research period further corroborates the practical character of the MADM programme.
We have reached that time again - the time when students of the current MADM intake set off for their field research period. 34 students have travelled to more than 20 different countries for a duration of 3 months. The candidates of the Cape Town group started earlier, and have already returned to Germany. They are currently in the process of analysing their collected data and finalizing their MA theses. The students from the Bochum group will return to the IEE in November 2015.
During this period, students gain valuable hands-on experience in research. Mr. Qamer Jatoi, a student of the Bochum group who is currently in Pakistan, attests to this in his report. In his research for the MADM thesis, Qamer Jatoi elaborates on the effects of the decentralisation of the education system in Pakistan. As he is pursuing a double degree, in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town (South Africa), he prepares a second master thesis on "A Sustainable Livelihoods Appraisal of Small Scale Fishing and Livelihood Diversification in Sindh, Pakistan".

ThuererDr. Tobias Thürer
Coordinator of the Master in Development Management
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: +49 (0)234 / 32-22458
Fax: +49 (0)234 / 32-14294

Voyage of Research

By Qamer Jatoi

My experience with the IEE affirms the MADM as an ideal programme that offers a collaborative study environment. Enrichment of personal experiences and conducting field research are the core components of this programme. The field research period was the logical continuation of the learning and application of empirical research techniques to collect the data for my Master's thesis. The journey that started last year with a summer school course on statistical tools for empirical research entered its last phase with a period of field research in the month of August. It was a busy month with many things going on - from the pressure of submitting my seminar paper on time, booking flights for my planned field research in my home country, Pakistan, and establishing relevant contacts in the field, to excitement for a reunion with my family and the happiness of visiting my home country again.
Although the initial stage of the research period was annoying, frustrating, and full of feelings of desperation, over time, my field research period turned out to be an exciting adventure. Like many of my classmates, my sources of frustration were the extreme change of weather between Bochum and Pakistan, lukewarm response of respondents, and self-expectations that were too high. Indeed, the climate was absolutely an issue for me. Working in the field in a hot summer, where average temperature ranges between 44°C and 48°C, was going to be an unforgettable experience. A glass of fresh mango shake with ice cubes seemed to be the only remedy to slash both the thirst and the weather.

Qamer JatoiMADM student Qamer Jatoi during his field research phase (photo: private).

After settling down, contacting respondents was the first step in the research process - and it truly was one of the most challenging steps. Irrespective of being in my home country, I found it very troublesome to get appointments, reach interview locations, and collect the required data. It was a test of passion and nerves. I truly had to face the unique realities of field work: adjustment of expectations, cultural differences, language difficulties, and bureaucratic hurdles were just a few examples. On the basis of such learning, it can easily be generalised that field work is not only about collecting data with a designed instrument, but is more like self-exploration and challenging yourself. The most frustrating situation during the process was the absence of commitment on the part of some interviewees. Although they prompted me to give appointments, they were nowhere to be found when it came time for the interview. However, as I continued with my project, I found that every single interview, meeting, and visit that worked out brought new insights, discoveries, and clarity for my research project. As a researcher, it gave me confidence and determination to explore more.
My experience in the field was unique, since I was collecting data from two different groups of respondents. First, I was gathering data for my MADM thesis, which focuses on interviews with key experts. Secondly, I was collecting data for my second degree at the University of the Western Cape, our partner university in Cape Town, where I was administering a household survey at the community level. Interestingly, when introducing myself as a researcher studying in Germany, both groups of respondents reacted in similar ways. Contacting communities and key experts was like a constant hike uphill, but thanks to the phrase "Greetings from Germany" in my e-mails, the respondents'' interests had already been piqued. Not only did it help me in setting up appointments, but it was also a positive indication towards career possibilities after returning back home. It let me realise how seriously and respectfully Pakistani people treat someone who is studying and living in Germany.
At the community level, my expectations of the respondents were too high. They suspected that I was conducting this research for financial gains and would not share these gains with them. One respondent even asked me how much money I would receive from the sale of his interview. Such questions are frustrating, but such communities cannot be blamed for this kind of impression, one that has developed over the years due to many NGOs and development institutions working in these areas. During the interaction with other respondents, such as politicians and government officials, I learned a lot about the importance and role of communication skills. For the first time, I experienced how a few words of courtesy can make getting appointments easier with popular politicians or busy and rude bureaucrats.
It was the most exciting and eventful time in the field, learning socially, academically, and culturally. Most importantly, I am returning as a better researcher, with an enriched experience of applying research methods with in-depth insights and practical knowledge from the field to issues in development. As Paulo Coelho says, "Die with memories, not dreams." While I have accumulated wonderful memories of joy, anger, and hope along this journey, my dreams are yet to be achieved.

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