I wanted to do a double thesis in my second year of the MSc Leisure, Tourism and Environment. My thesis topics were initiated from my interest in theme park studies. Disney-type theme park studies were privileged in previous studies, with management and marketing orientation. Tourist motivation, on-site experiences and post-visit senses had been always studied separately. Being aware of these knowledge gaps, I decided to structure my major thesis with the case of a cultural theme park, involving whole stories of tourist experiences.
Interestingly, I came up with my minor thesis topic during the data analysis process of my major thesis. My major thesis followed a social-constructionist approach, focused on cultural commodification and staged authenticity in tourist experiences. When organizing my results, I found the stories of my research participants could also be analyzed from a post-modern perspective in spite of the logical distinction between ‘authenticity’ and ‘fake’, as their feelings about ‘more real than real’ were included. I definitely learned a lot from my thesis experience, about qualitative research methods, and how the knowledge I learned in MLE courses could be applied to Chinese cultural theme parks.
Barriers during the thesis
Coming up with a determined final topic and formulating research questions at the beginning stage was an extreme difficulty for me. As theme park is not a popular research target, I could only frame my thesis by integrating the piecing theories together. Staged authenticity and hyper-reality were initiated in 1970-1980s and lost their original popularity in researches, however, these ‘old’ theories helped me to frame my own research.
Advise for future students
Doing thesis is a treasurable experience for you, as you can apply interesting theories you learned during class to your own thoughts. Don’t panic when encountering difficulties, you never reach the end until you see your expected results.