Coursework at ZEF consists of a set of compulsory modules reflecting the strategic research themes at ZEF. During the first weeks, all BIGS-DR students of one batch take the same modules with an interdisciplinary focus on sustainable development. Together, BIGS-DR students train interdisciplinary skills for their research and a solid theoretical foundation to tackle complex and interconnected research topics. 

Students gain insights into other disciplinary approaches and methods by choosing electives. The following elective modules in economics, social sciences, public health, system modeling, and ecology enhance the theoretical and methodological foundations in the respective disciplines. These modules provide intensive training in relevant theories and empirical methods. Additionally, students can choose among statistics courses, GIS, remote sensing, Meta-Analysis, and system modeling using various software. 

Perspectives on Development: Poverty, Growth, Decolonization, Sustainability, and Gender

Understand different approaches and definitions of development, growth, and poverty. Economic dynamics, sustainable development, human development,  (post)colonial perspectives, feminist approaches, and master system thinking to address complex global challenges.

Social Science and Development: Methods and Theories

Explore with actor-network theory, situational analysis, and translational research. Learn techniques for participant observation and field notes, and master the principles and techniques of questionnaire design. Elevate your research skills and gain a deeper understanding of complex social dynamics.

Sustainable Agriculture: Exploring Agroecology, Nutrition Security, Innovations

Learn the interplay between nature and agriculture, sustainable yield enhancement strategies, plant nutrient dynamics, soil health, transformative innovations, and gender dynamics fostering equity and empowerment in agriculture.

Advanced Microeconomics

Learn the frameworks of Agricultural Household Models and examine the underpinnings of Gender Economics. Prepare to engage deeply with the formal analysis of economic decision-making within agricultural contexts in economic theory.

Perspectives on Urbanization, Migration, and Culture

This module offers insights into urbanization, global mobility, decolonization, and gender dynamics, introducing contemporary discourse in urban and development studies.

Understanding Nutrition: Insights into Causality, Impact, Assessment, and Linkages

Learn quantitative and qualitative methods in climate change, health, and nutrition research. Assess impacts, malnutrition, and disease in LMICs. Gain insights from global dietary databases and understand agriculture-nutrition linkages.

Adaptation, Solutions, and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Learn about the intersection of climate change and agriculture, its impacts, and adaptation strategies. Analyze economic perspectives on climate change and investigate the potential of blue and green carbon in coastal conservation and restoration. Examine human development amidst a changing climate, also exploring impacts and responses on health.

Dynamics of Conflict, Governance, and Resource Management

Learn theories of governance, conflicts, and Identity Politics. Explore the interplay between resources, conflict, and cooperation, and strategize for common pool resource management. Conclude with policy advice.

Applied Econometrics

This module will equip students with practical knowledge of a wide range of microeconometric models commonly used in development research e.g. OLS, multinomial models, censored-data models, panel-data models, IV, difference-in-differences, RCT. You learn to apply econometric models and interpret the results. Additionally, students will discuss the limitations of each specific econometric model and potential solutions when core assumptions are violated.

Biodiversity- Measurement, Threats, Conservation, and Science Policy Interfaces

Understand the significance of biodiversity, assess environmental stressors, and examine the impact of agriculture and land use. Learn about conservation strategies, policies, and the crucial link between science and policy through practical methods and field trips.

Health Dynamics: Migration, Public Health, Climate, and Economics

Examine the impact of migration, climate, and economics on health. Learn strategies for combating diseases and explore gender health dynamics. Learn an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to global health challenges.

Systems Modeling: Environment, Economics, and Complexity

Learn about modeling human-environment interactions through both foundational and advanced tracks. Study complexities of interconnected social-ecological systems with examples in agricultural development, forest conservation, and ecosystem services. Analyze economic perspectives on environmental resources, bridging theory and practice.

Knowledge Production, Writing, and Data Management

Explore knowledge dynamics and inclusive knowledge production.  Master literature reviews, academic writing, reference management, and data presentation. Ensure academic integrity, and understand research ethics, and data management techniques. Strengthen academic skills for your research.

Advanced Qualitative Research Methods: From Participatory Approaches to Data Collection Techniques

Explore qualitative research methods, covering participatory approaches, transect walks, in-depth interviews, case study design principles, and participatory analysis. Enhance your understanding of research methodologies and refine your skills in engaging communities, analyzing landscapes, and uncovering insights.

Interpretation of Data with Software: Statistics, GIS, R, and Meta Analysis

Learn advanced statistical methods such as factor analysis, principal component analysis, and cluster analysis with STATA, tailored for all disciplines. Explore sampling design techniques applicable across fields. Examine spatial data with GIS, analyze data with R, and learn advanced Meta-Analysis. Lastly, learn qualitative analysis with Atlas.ti.

Enhancing Understanding through Excursions and Exploration

Develop intercultural fluency and learn to thrive in diverse work environments. Explore cultural and environmental highlights in Bonn. Participate in excursions to museums, cultural events, and hikes.

Disciplinary Feedback and Discussions

Train presentation skills and cultivate a culture of constructive disciplinary feedback within the working group/division.

Writing your Research Proposal: Research Questions, Theories, Methodology, and Literature

Develop and present your research proposal including literature review, research objectives, questions or hypotheses, methodology, timeline, budget, expected outcomes, and references. It outlines the research context, significance, design, and ethical considerations, providing a comprehensive plan for your research.

All modules are taught in sequential blocks and last full-time from October until April, including assessments like exams, presentations, essays, and group work. And finally, the presentation of the research proposal.

Teaching is carried out by ZEF professors, ZEF postdocs, and other well-known experts, among them many ZEF alumni.

Throughout the remaining years of the program, students participate in soft-skill training to improve their presentation techniques for conferences and develop further career steps. Students choose the training based on their individual needs. They are guided and supported in writing academic articles and publishing them in peer-reviewed international journals.


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