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Jochen Mierau wins Netspar Thesis Award and unravels secrets of writing a thesis

12 February 2008
The prize winners on a line: at the right wing Jochen Mierau
The prize winners on a line: at the right wing Jochen Mierau

Jochen Mierau of the Faculty of Economics and Business won the Netspar challenge for the best research Master paper on a subject regarding pensions, aging and retirement. The jury report stated: “outstanding thesis, author shows technical competence without losing the broad picture and the thesis stands out in terms of ambition and originality.”  Jochen received €3000,- prize money.

Netspar is the national Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, located at the University of Tilburg.

Jochen started his career as a student of International Economics and Business at the former Faculty of Economics. After his first year, he switched to the honours program Economics and in his third year he spent some time abroad at the university of Uppsala, Sweden. When he returned to Groningen, he followed the course ‘political economics’ and he wrote his first papers that were published, co-authored by Jong-A-Pin (PhD student) and Prof. Jacob de Haan .

These were his first steps towards an academic career and he came in touch with Netspar. He received a grant from Netspar which gave him the opportunity to write a master thesis related to the research program of Netspar. If he managed to receive a grade of at least an 8, he would obtain another Netspar scholarship for writing a PhD thesis. Jochen obtained a 9 and finished the Research Master Economics and Econometrics with an average of 8.6. So if anyone can give you some clues on how to write a good master thesis, he is the man.  

Limit and define

According to Jochen, the most important thing is to take your studies seriously. By spending enough time on your courses and getting good grades, you set the basis for a good Master thesis. After finishing his Bachelor degree cum laude, he talked with his thesis supervisor about the subject. Jochen explains: “A key aspect of writing a Master thesis is to limit and define the subject.”

A lot of students choose a scope that is too broad which leads them away from their original subject. Jochen advises students to test a well known theory empirically. “When you have a good existing set of data it is relatively easy to test this theory.” Many students waste their time by collecting data while there are much more relevant existing data already. The award winner says students should spend this time on studying applied econometrics because it helps to do the methodological part of the thesis in the right way.  


Jochen enjoyed writing his thesis very much. He thinks it is crucial to decouple the scientific and linguistic parts of the thesis. He used a system of short summaries of his key elements and started to work them out. By working according to this method he did not lose the main point of the thesis from sight and ensured that the most important issues were mentioned. After this, he spent his time on writing the thesis down in proper English. Jochen’s final tip is to write about an interesting subject you are familiar with and in which you excel.  


Jochen is satisfied about winning the prize and regards it as a recognition towards his solid academic work. He will continue to write his PhD thesis and after this he will consider his next career step. “In my second year I was the chairman of the symposium committee of the faculty association and in my fourth year I was the student representative to the board of the faculty. So whether my career will be in the corporate, political or scientifical world, is not clear yet.” Last but not least, what are his plans with the prize money? “I will go on holiday.”  

More information:

Jochen Mierau:


Netspar offers multiple prizes, also for Bachelor students. If you want to compete, write a thesis on a relevant Netspar subject.

Besides, Netspar offers several interesting internships for students at well known Dutch companies.

Thesis Jochen (pdf). Thesis supervisor was Prof. Ben Heijdra.

Last modified:31 January 2018 11.52 a.m.

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