Students introduce themselves and talk about their experiences conducting research for their BA thesis

Cedric Cohen

I am a graduate student in political science at the University of Zurich, specializing in policy analysis. Apart from policy analysis, I focused my studies on international relations, political geography and political philosophy. In fall 2015 I will attend a MA program at the Centre for Comparative and International Studies, which is offered by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University of Zurich.

The idea of conducting a randomized field experiment was very intriguing. Until the BA seminar, experiments in the social sciences have not been discussed extensively in any of the other courses I took. Learning and reading about other experiments in all kinds of policy areas was extremely helpful to get an idea of all the possibilities that are around. However, the most exciting part about writing my BA-thesis was not just to find a research question and elaborate its theoretical relevancy, but to actually develop a functional research design, implement the research and analyze the collected data. I hope to get the opportunity to continue learning about experimental designs during my graduate studies. I believe the experience I gained whilst writing my thesis will be very valuable in this process.

Ruben Garcia Vasquez
My name is Ruben Garcia Vazquez, I was born in Zürich in 1990. After graduating high school I decided to start studying environmental science at the ETH in Zürich. After 3 semesters I decided to switch to political science — a good choice! I specialised in policy analysis, and focused as well on political economy, international relations and public relations.

I focused my work in the BA-thesis on educational policies. First I tried to set up a field experiment on political education working with various middle schools in Switzerland, which failed due to the lack of interest from their part to give me the needed permissions. So I switched to a quasi-experimental design to analyse the effect of age at school entry on educational outcomes. The data was made available to me by the canton of Zürich, with students born between 1993-1998. I found significant effects of being born just before or after the school entry cut-off date (which I used as an instrument for age at school entry) on which track (academic vs non-academic) students chose at middle school. As social scientists have shown for other countries that this effect increases for students from working-class families, I now try to build on my thesis by conditioning on socio-economic background variables.

David von Holzen
My name is David von Holzen, I am 22 years old and I am from Horw, which lies in the suburbs of Lucerne. I started studying at the University of Zurich in 2012 with Political Science as Major and Law and Ethnology as Minors.

In my Major I specialized in Policy Analysis. Therefore I wrote my BA-Thesis within this subject area. I planned a field experiment to examine the following research question: "Does loss and gain framing of a political issue have an effect on voters’ electoral decision making?“ To answer it I conducted a randomized field experiment, during which I distributed four differently framed voting recommendations in Horw about the Energy-Initiative of the Green Liberal Party. After the poll I conducted a survey about voter behaviour of treated and untreated subjects. I learned a lot by conducting this field experiment and I can highly recommend to do the same for other BA-Theses or papers. Undoubtedly it takes much effort to conduct such a field experiment, but it is definitely worth it, because the experiences you’ll make are essential for further field research.

Giordano Neuenschwander
I was born in Mendrisio in 1992 and I grew up in Bellinzona, surrounded by alpine sceneries and a supportive family. After graduating from the Liceo Cantonale di Bellinzona, looking for an academic path that would allow me to deal with a wide spectrum of topics, I chose to study political sciences at the University of Zurich, with minors in modern Chinese and political economics. During my studies in Zurich, I developed an interest in policy analysis and in particular in the dynamics of decision processes in politics.

When a specialization on policy experiments was offered in my final year, I enrolled without any second thoughts. In the context of the specialization, I came across several field experiments on the effectiveness of phone calls in mobilizing the electorate, almost all carried out in the United States. In Switzerland, political phone calls are far less common, and I wondered what results they would have. Through a chain of personal connections, I was able to set up a field experiment on electoral phone calls in Ticino, my home Canton. It was hard work, but the practical experience I have gained from carrying out a real-world experiment is priceless.

Lea Stühlinger
My name is Lea Stühlinger, I’m 22 years old and I grew up in a very small village in the lovely Zürcher Unterland before I moved to Zurich one year ago. My bachelor thesis semester was my last one at the IPZ. I’ve just enrolled in a Management and Law masters program at the ZHAW in Winterthur. I had the pleasure to conduct my randomized field experiment at my former school in Bülach. “How to get out the youth vote” is a research question I’ve already dealt with when I was at high school. I wrote my thesis about young people’s lack of political interest.

My bachelor thesis was the perfect opportunity to continue my research. The results of the two tested methods to increase young voters' turnout are quite satisfying although the number of students who participated in my experiment was not very large. Since I showed in my thesis that young people are an important part of every democracy and that there are ways to motivate them to vote, I really hope that young people in Switzerland will visit the polls more frequently in the upcoming elections than they did four years ago.