Douglas de Toledo Piza, PhD student, Sociology
New School for Social Research, USA
"Most summer schools teach either the basics of methodology or train students in a specific method. The Berlin summer school was different. It approaches critically the epistemological assumptions behind different methodologies in social sciences. In doing so, it explores the implications of applying one methodology over others in designing and conducting research investigations. In this sense, the attendees not only acquire knowledge that will be necessary for our teaching positions in the future, but are specially required to self-reflexively assess the logic of social inquiry. I fell now completely competent to discuss my methodological issues in academic conferences and critically evaluate papers and articles. The format of the BSS reflects this desire of critically engaging with methodological issues in social sciences. During the first week, two lecturers with radically distinct perspectives give talks and comment on each other's presentation. As a result, there is a constant search for refinement of the arguments that maintain each of the positions. After that, the students do a series of assignments in small groups. Finally, the groups meet again with the lecturers, and engage in a high-level debate about the validity and coherence of the approaches. In the second week, students are grouped thematically. Each of us has the opportunity to present our projects, hear the comments of specialists in the field and discuss the research project with our peers. By doing so, we are forced to defend and/or rethink our own methodologies and their limitations. In the overall, the event was very well organized and the staff team gave us support in every activity they could possible do so. The composition of more than 60 attendees included students at diverse stages of their research (from MA to advanced PhD). In general, this fact didn't compromised the level of discussions. Finally, I'd say that the course is appropriate to students that: a) have a clear project and b) are at initial stages of research. This is the moment when rethinking the methodology applied to a concrete research results in developing the project further."
Julia Eder, PhD student, Sociology
University of Linz, Austria
"Taking part in the Berlin Summer School of Social Sciences was a great experience. During the first week, we had every morning two excellent lectures on methodological issues by internationally renowned scholars. Attentive listening provided us a good basis for group discussions in the afternoons. What I especially appreciated was that we had the opportunity to bring our questions back to the lecturers in a third session. This was very helpful, because sometimes the collective reflections brought up new issues (and sometimes confusions), which could be clarified later. In general, the first week helped me a lot to strengthen my methodological knowledge. The second week we spent in four thematic groups, where all of us presented our research projects. It was very useful to receive feedback from a WZB senior researcher and from a student discussant working on the same or a similar topic, as well as from the other participants. Thus, I could identify the strengths and shortcomings of my dissertation concept and the listeners gave me some excellent hints for improving my research design. Overall, I had very interesting interdisciplinary discussions, obtained great literature recommendations and met lovely people. Finally yet importantly, a big thanks to the organising team for their effort!"
Runya Qiaoan, PhD student, Sociology
Masaryk University, Czechia
"Berlin Summer School in Social Science is one of the best, if not THE BEST summer school I have ever attended! If you want to discuss theoretical or methodological questions with renown social scientists and if you want to get feedback on your project from world leading experts, this is the right place for you. As a participant of the 6th Berlin Summer School, I especially like how lecturers with different or even contradicting opinions are brought together for a dialogue. This kind of academic debate is extremely inspiring for me. And needless to say, Berlin is an ideal place to spend your summer. The amazing organizers will make your time both fruitful and fun!"
Suzanne Egan, PhD, Ewing Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Sydney, Australia
"Thanks to the generous funding of the German Academic Exchange Programme (DAAD), I was able to travel from Australia to attend the 2016 'Berlin Summer School in the Social Sciences' and I fully recommend it to others who are thinking of applying for a place. For me it was an excellent opportunity to build networks, gain knowledge about academia and universities in countries outside the Global South and most importantly, the workshop theme - 'Linking theory and empirical research' - is central to my research programme. I also found it both interesting and important to learn more about how concepts and ideas are used in social science disciplines outside of my own – in particular in economics and political science. In retrospect, it would have very useful if I had had access to this type of workshop during my doctoral research as I encountered many difficulties with working out how to operationalise the theoretical concepts of particular social theorist (Foucault) as methodological strategies for an empirical research project. However, I benefited enormously from having the opportunity of presenting the solutions I did come up with and have continued to draw on the ‘learnings’ from the Summer School in my postdoctoral research programme, a key element of which involves examination of the relationship between contemporary social theory, methodology and empirical research. For example in the semester after returning home I organised, along with Associate Professor Sue Goodwin my thesis supervisor and now postdoctoral academic advisor, a symposium 'Engaging with a shift to the empirical in feminist scholarship', which focused on the challenges and opportunities afforded for empirical research of recent theoretical developments in feminist theoretical work. The organising team did an amazing job both in the lead up to and during the summer school. It is an extraordinary amount of work to organise an event like this especially when it is in addition to your own research and studies! They also did a great job of organising social activities (drinks, dinners, and sightseeing) for us. One practical tip I would give to others would be to try to stay fairly close to the Humboldt University. Although the Berlin public transport system is exceptionally good I still found that by staying a bit further out from the centre I missed some of the social events as found it too much to go home after classes and then back again in the evening. Having said that most people will probably not have quite as long a trip and therefore jetlag as I did!"
Sher Muhammad, PhD student, Political Science
University of Sargodha, Pakistan
"It has been One of my most enjoyable and rewarding experiences to participating in the "Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences – Linking Theory and Empirical Research" at Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS), Berlin. All the invited speakers were fantastic. They made the subject come alive and helped to create a supportive and encouraging environment for us to learn and share ideas. It has been great privilege to be part of a small and enthusiastic group of students genuinely interested in their chosen subject. This summer school was also a great learning experience in a different ways and this leaning about other cultures and more about my own transformed my own personality. There is another benefit about working with students from different cultures and educational background is how you can experience the same things but interpret them differently. The one to one consultation with worthy professors and comments from participants during presentation helped a lot to reshape my own research project. This two week in Berlin has been amazing and I can't think of a better way to spend those two summer weeks. Everyone from the professors, to the students and the (BGSS) staff were incredible. I learnt, I grew as a person and it was fun!"