Thesis Project Guide
The Honors College describes the thesis as “a scholarly piece of writing in which the writer is
expected to show a command of the relevant scholarship in his (or her) field and contribute to
the scholarship. It should confront a question that is unresolved and push towards a resolution.”
The thesis is likely to be one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavors that you will
pursue during your undergraduate career. Through the process of developing and writing your
thesis, you will build on what you have learned during your coursework, gain insights into
scholarship and methodology, and develop your talent as a writer and thinker.
The final thesis should represent your work, and your work alone. This means that you cannot
outsource the writing of any part of the thesis, the development of your research instruments, or
the analysis of your data.
Once your thesis is completed, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have produced
a work of scholarship that is available electronically to anyone who wishes to access it
to search all of the honors theses currently available electronically). You are also strongly encouraged, where the subject matter of your thesis lends itself to it, to pursue the goal of submitting your work to an academic journal for publication. New knowledge has to be shared to have any utility. A paper in a professional journal will significantly increase the likelihood that your work will reach the community of scholars and industry practitioners.
If your thesis supervisor recommends that you submit your work to a journal, please make sure
that you contact the Schreyer Honors College at least two weeks prior to final submission of your
thesis to request restricted access. If restricted access is granted for your thesis, access to the
body of the thesis (via PSU) will be denied to everyone for a period of two years. The thesis will
be released automatically for access worldwide at the end of the two-year period.
The First Steps: Choosing a Topic and a Thesis Supervisor
There are two key choices you must make when you embark on your thesis: choosing a topic and choosing a supervisor.
Choosing a topic
A research topic can be very broad – you have not yet developed a specific research question but
instead have an expansive area of interest.
Here are some tips for choosing a successful thesis topic:
- Let your interests guide you. This project will consume a considerate amount of your
time during your junior and senior years, so pick a topic that you are genuinely interested
in and committed to exploring. Think about interesting topics or readings from your
coursework—what caught your attention?
- Pay attention to your social world. Look to the media, news outlets, your friends – what
issues are people debating now? What questions need answering?
- Think of this as a chance to do something totally new. Is there a course you wish that the
School of Hospitality Management offered about a certain topic? What research
questions follow from that topic?
- Engage with current or past research. See what has been done. Look at journals like the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly and the International Journal of Hospitality Management. What topics have they covered recently? What can you add to the debate?
Your research topic does not have to be specific yet. Do some brainstorming—write down 5 to 10 topics that interest you. Talk with friends and professors to see which topics are the most interesting (and could provide the starting point for a strong thesis). Once you have decided on a topic, you are ready for the next step.
One of the most difficult parts of conducting original research is scheduling your time. If you leave the writing to the last minute, you will leave inadequate time for revisions, and consequently produce a thesis that falls well below its – and your – potential.
This is YOUR work. Take ownership. Be proactive and lead the project at every stage. This is not like coursework where you are given detailed direction and timelines – you need to “direct” yourself and set your own timelines. Your thesis advisor will offer guidance but you are steering the ship!
Develop deadlines and stick to them. Work backwards from the thesis due date and block out time for each step in the process. On the next page is a recommended timeline for your thesis work. Work with your thesis supervisor to refine this broad timeline into smaller chunks of time (e.g., a monthly timeline).