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Tackling unhealthy grocery shopping – how my thesis is preparing me for my academic career
When the thesis topics were published, I instantly knew which project I wanted to work on: Moving from the Eatwell guide to a Food shopping guide. The Eatwell Guide is a dietary guide from the UK government that provides dietary advice for healthy nutrition. My supervisor had the idea to use this guide to provide instant feedback to consumers after their grocery shop. Consumers would receive a graph on their grocery receipt that would tell them how their diet compared to the national guidelines. Could this be a way of nudging consumers towards healthier nutrition?
While many of the potential research topics for MSc students were focused on the agriculture or processing stage in the food chain, I have always been more passionate about sustainable consumer behaviour. When I started my thesis, I already had my PhD spot at the Business school of the University of Warwick secured. Therefore, I wanted to write a thesis targeted at sustainable behaviour change, which potentially provides me with insights that I could use later on.
For my thesis, I had to conduct interviews and analyse the grocery purchases of the participants. While I prefer working with quantitative data, I enjoyed collecting and working with qualitative data. It was interesting to speak with different people and get an idea about people’s perception of sustainable and healthy nutrition. While sustainable and healthy food consumption is something I am very passionate about, it is important to realise that a healthy diet is not something everyone prioritises, especially those struggling with limited financial resources.
During my undergraduate education, I learnt how to search and read literature relatively quickly. Therefore, I managed to search the literature, conduct the interviews, analyse the data, and write the thesis quicker than most of my classmates. I met with my supervisors about once a week to discuss how to proceed. While I received some general guidance, the majority of the work was independent, which I enjoyed.
When I wasn’t working on my thesis, I had time to enjoy a wide range of activities. I went on runs or cycles around the area, met up with friends for lunch, dinner or coffee, or take little day trips to London or Bedford. Unlike having lectures, thesis writing can feel a bit lonely and potentially a bit demotivating due to the lack of a structured day. I am lucky that I enjoy independent work, as well as researching and writing papers. Yeah, I don’t know what is wrong with me either, but I guess that is why I am continuing my academic career!!. But it’s important to keep yourself motivated and engaged throughout the project. Therefore, I went on a hiking trip to the Peak District halfway through my thesis to get out of Cranfield and to get my mind off the project for a couple of days.
Now I am going to leave Cranfield in about two weeks. I have learnt a lot during my time here, especially that food sustainability is something that I want to continue to work on for the next period of my life and likely beyond that. Furthermore, I met many great people that I hope I will stay in touch with once we all leave and continue our lives somewhere else. Who would have thought that a small, rural university like Cranfield would enable me to meet and connect with people from all around the world?
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