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HSH Programs: Cross Cultural Studies: Theses_Projects_Internships
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Cross-Cultural Studies - Theses, Projects, and Internships

Theses, projects, and internships represent three choices for a capstone or culminating experience in the Cross-Cultural Studies program. Which one will be right for you? How do you get started? Read on to discover how best to develop the theories, ideas, and skill sets from your coursework into your own research projects and internships.

1. What's the difference between a Thesis and a Project?
2. Thesis--Project--or Internship. Which one is right for me?
3. I have a research topic in mind. How can I turn this into a thesis or a project?
4. What is the procedure for completing an internship?
5. Are there any examples of student research or internship narratives that I could see?

1. What's the difference between a Thesis and a Project?

Both the thesis and the project involve conceptualizing and conducting original research, but the difference between the two lies most often in either (1) methodology or (2) outcomes.
While thesis research tends to rely more on secondary sources and library research, project work often involves or emphasizes empirical data collection: conducting surveys, interviews, etc. If you work on a project, you will likely have to spend more time on research design, obtaining approval from the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS), following certain ethical procedures and so on, than you typically would with thesis work.

This said, it is also the case that you can conduct empirical research and use your material to write a thesis. What you choose has to do with your research topic and what it demands, your own disciplinary interests, and your career goals (see the “Which one is right for me?” section). All told, it is extremely important that you discuss your ideas in detail with your advisor before getting started.

Theses and Projects can also be distinguished by outcomes or end-products. A thesis is a written text, broken up into 3-5 chapters, and can range from about 80-100 pages. Project work also involves producing a written analysis of data collected (usually about 30-50 pages) but usually in combination with some other output: a developed web site on a particular research topic (that becomes a resource for future students), short films, and photographic exhibitions. The Project offers a little more flexibility for those students interested in producing more than written essays, or those whose topics demand different sorts of research strategies that can be more consuming than library research.
See the section on Student Research for some thesis excerpts and examples of projects.

2. Thesis--Project--or Internship. Which one is right for me?

If you have, in roughly the following order (1) a research idea in mind, (2) strong research and writing skills, (3) the capability of directing and motivating yourself, and (4) aspirations to pursue a doctoral degree or some other research- or writing-oriented professional work, you might want to consider completing either a thesis or a project. (See the section above on the differences between Theses and Projects to determine which path is best suited to your research idea.)
The work involved in taking ideas from concept to written product is substantial, and invariably takes more time and effort than one ever predicts. If your research will involve any work with human subjects--formal interviews, talking to people, interactions with actual communities--you will also have to complete and submit an application to the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) and receive formal institutional approval before you can proceed.
If you are (1) interested in applying your skills in working directly with people; (2) likely to work in Human Resources, non-profits, diversity training or other like fields that could involve mediation, dealing with cross-cultural communication and so on – then it is more likely that an internship would serve your needs the best.
An important caveat: We generally advise that thesis work is useful if you have further education in mind and that internships are better if you have more immediate career-goals, but the reverse can be true, too. This is where it’s really important to talk to your advisor if you are unclear about how best to proceed in your specific scenario.

3. I have a research topic in mind. How can I turn this into a thesis or a project?

The following notes have been culled from an email I [Deepa Reddy] once sent to a student who asked me this question. Although we were discussing theses specifically, every step described below is just as applicable to projects: you could replace “thesis” with “project” and the procedure still holds.
The thesis/project process works approximately like this:

  • You have to have an idea for a research project that you want to work on -- and some idea of what your research questions might be as well as some rough methodology planned.
  • You would then approach an instructor to be your thesis chair (first reader). Ideally this person should be someone whose research or other interests intersect with your own, and someone you may have had a good rapport working with already. Your thesis chair or first reader does not have to be the same person as your academic advisor.
  • In consultation with your thesis chair, you write a 6-10-page thesis proposal that includes the following sections in this order: (a) an introduction: review of key literature related to topic, your research question, and explanation of the significance of the research topic; (b) a detailed explanation of methodology for the project, (c) a detailed outline of the expanded literature review, d) a bibliography, minimum of one page, in MLA, APA, or Chicago style.
  • Also in consultation with your thesis chair (first reader), you would identify another faculty member to serve as your second reader. The Chair and the Second Reader together constitute your Thesis Committee.
  • Your proposal then needs to be read and approved by your thesis committee, and then gets sent to the Dean's office for further review.
  • At this stage, you also sign a thesis agreement and complete and submit an application to the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS), if applicable.
  • You can then register for the first semester of thesis hours and start work on the thesis. Ideally, you send your work in bits and pieces to your chair throughout the semesters so that s/he has time to comment, guide, and give feedback, and so that there are no surprises for either you or him/her at the end.
  • You MUST plan on completing your thesis at least two months before the end of the semester you wish to graduate. So if you are graduating in Spring 20XX, then you should have a final draft in to your Chair by no later than March 1, if not before. And if you are graduating in Fall 20XX, then your final draft must be good to go by no later than October 1.  
  • Your chair may ask you to revise more or less significantly (Remember that you can cut down on any surprises at this stage by being regular about consulting with your chair even while you are writing your thesis, and not leaving all consultations for the final stages). Your second reader would then also become involved at this stage in the process and give you further feedback, perhaps also request further revisions.
  • Once you have revised -- and remember that you may have to act quickly on revisions depending on how much time you have allowed yourself -- the Chair and Second reader sign off on the thesis, which then gets sent to the Dean's office for review.
  • Dean's Review: The Associate Dean and Dean will each read a minimum of five pages to assess the extent of any writing and grammar issues, and may have substantive comments on the arguments presented, as well. You will need to budget time to attend to all of those.
    Please note that if the number of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors—including citation style—exceeds one per page, The Dean's office will not sign the thesis or project and will return it for rewrite. Upon receiving the rewrite, Associate Dean and Dean will each read a different five pages. If the number of grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors still exceeds the limit of one per page, they will reject the thesis.
  • Once you have the Dean's approval, your thesis will need to get a library format check, cover pages will need to be signed etc., but mostly that's it; you're done.
    One final caution: Thesis writing is NOT an easy process and NOT for the faint of heart! Having good research ideas and good research skills from the start is absolutely essential. Having good communication with your Chair throughout would help things along tremendously. The process often takes longer than you realize and is often more demanding than you bargain for -- although the outcome, if you keep at it and work hard, is likely to be a tremendous accomplishment: a badge you can then justifiably wear with pride and that will carry you far in your career.

4. What is the procedure for completing an internship?

An appropriate internship experience can be pivotal in the transition from being a student to being a working professional. CRCL majors have interned at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Office of Diversity, the Houston Area Women’s Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Innovative Alternatives, the Bilateral US-Arab Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Healing Racism, and the UHCL Office of International and Intercultural Services, among many others.

The internship requires 500 hours, typically over at least two semesters. In order to be eligible for internship, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Have completed at least 24 graduate credit hours;
  • Be in good academic standing with a GPA of 3.0 or higher;
  • Meet your specific program requirements.

Everything you need to know about Internships, including an extensive list of possible internship sites, is on the Graduate Internship Program site.

Contact the Graduate Internship Coordinator: Joyce Taylor,

5. Are there any examples of student research or internship narratives that I could see?

Yes, indeed! Here’s a partial list with links or information about where to look these up:

Rhiannon Applegate completed her Internship for Cross-Cultural Studies in Tirana, Albania, working with the US Embassy’s Political/Economic Section, in the Spring of 2010. HERE is some of what she had to say about the experience.
Rhiannon Applegate's narrative

Rhiannon Rhiannon

Miriam Flores Basta’s*

[Neumann Library Call number ZZ1 B27 206]

ABSTRACT: Over forty-five million people in the United States are uninsured and assumptions about this group abound in the public imagination.  Extensive research has been done on health care disparities and the responses of medical and allied health professionals to patients based on age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status.  However, sufficient research on the patient’s initial contact within the health care system does not exist.  This research focuses therefore on the front-line, non-clinical support staff, and their images and perceptions of the uninsured.  Support staff work in the access points of registration, scheduling, admissions, reception and financial counseling.  This “front door” to the health care system is typically the first point of contact for any patient desiring non-emergency access to health care services.  What perceptions of the uninsured are common among support staff and how do these perceptions affect the attitude and behavior of support personnel when dealing with the uninsured?    

*Miriam’s is an example of a research project that combined empirical data collection with extensive library research and analysis. She designed a survey, obtained the requisite CPHS approvals, and decided to write a thesis rather than a shorter Project essay.

Rachel Boyle’s “Representing gender and violence in Juárez: An examination of image and text in print news sources

Cross-Cultural Studies Student Rachel Boyle presenting her research and sharing the stage with veteran Immigrant Rights organizer, Maria Jiménez, at Women’s Studies Week 2004

ABSTRACT: This work endeavors to identify cross-cultural implications of the United States media's portrayal of gender and violence across the border in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The case study chosen focuses upon the crimes perpetrated against women in Ciudad Juárez (serial abduction, rape, and murder) over a ten year time-frame.  Although it is necessary to understand that the media are only one source of information in the larger context of discourse (re)production, the process of creating images and texts serves as one contributor towards this discourse that reaffirms identity construction through the following categories: self and Other. The media are a vehicle for information that enables the continued maintenance of the border as a space of division and difference (cultural, economic, political) rather than hybridity. To this end, the work proffers a discussion of narrative construction utilizing the border-as-metaphor via American media’s text and image relationships.
Carlo Deason’s Crossing the rainbow border: the gay Latino male immigrant experience in Houston [Neumann Library Call number ZZ1 D311 2006]
Andrea Dunn’s Integrated Internship Narrative: “A Cross-Cultural Studies Internship at the Anti-Defamation League
Belinda Garcia’s The role of el Dia de los Muertos in the cultural identity of the Latino community [Neumann Library Call number 221 G215 2005]
Leslie Plaza Johnson’s images from her final Photographic Exhibit are on her web site

Randy Wilson’s “Assessing Organizational Culture through the Context of Diversity
ABSTRACT: This thesis offers a unique model for assessing organizational culture as well as an application of that methodology to the assessment of diversity initiatives in an organization.  This three-pronged model for assessment provided an appropriate mechanism, which allowed for the collection of evidence that diversity has little impact on organizational culture.  Quantitative and qualitative measures showed a strong commitment by members to the organization, however qualitative results also indicate a range of opinions of organizational culture based on race, ethnicity and position within the organization.  Employee perceptions of multiple organizational indicators related to diversity indicate a strong need to reinforce themes of inclusion to achieve a common understanding of the organizational culture.  

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Theses, Projects, Internships

Human Rights Houston
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Alcira Molina-Ali’s “In Search of a Muslim Pain Principle” is available online, courtesy Alcira. You can also watch the short video she produced on YouTube

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