The Value of External Reviews
Completing and defending a Master’s thesis is one of the final steps required for a successful graduation from the Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism Management Program. The great majority of Master’s theses in the program are reviewed by external experts to testify the quality of research produced by the students in our program. Such experts, professors of domestic and international universities and industry professionals of leading hospitality and tourism companies, are strategically hand-picked to possess the specialty that matches the thesis under review.Dr. Marina Predvoditeleva discussed the role of the external review process with Dr. Katerina Berezina, an Assistant Professor at the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership, and a Coordinator of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. In the last couple of years Dr. Berezina delivered guest lectures on the future of hospitality technology and electronic distribution via flash sales websites to the faculty and students of the Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism Management program, and also served as an external reviewer for Master’s theses.
Dr. Berezina, you are one of the experts who have been invited to serve as an external reviewer of our students' research. Could you please share your experience of reviewing Master’s theses for the Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism Management program?
Absolutely. It has been a great experience. I have served as a reviewer twice so far. Both theses that I reviewed were related to hospitality technology, which was a great fit to my area of expertise. The first work was authored by Tatiana Vasilkevich and studied search and recommendation systems in the tourism industry. Given the growth of e-commerce and electronic distribution of the tourism product, this topic is an important one to consider for both academia and the industry. The author of the second thesis, Maria Sapozhnikova, evaluated a destination image of Tbilisi formed in the online reviews. This is another excellent choice of the topic that is reflective of the current trends in the industry. I greatly enjoyed reading both studies and very much appreciate being invited as a reviewer.
- Thank you very much! And we greatly appreciate you volunteering your time to assist with the review process. What in your opinion is the core value of the external review process?
External review is one of the methods used by universities to ensure quality of the graduate student research. I think it may benefit all parties involved: students, faculty members, and the university. First of all, the external review process is in place to ensure the rigor of conducted research. From this perspective, inviting an external expert to review students’ research may serve as a testament to the quality of work. Furthermore, inviting reviewers from international institutions brings new perspectives, and approaches, stimulates the exchange of ideas, and tests the research against the international quality standards.
However, I view this process not only as a stamp of quality for the university, but also as a learning opportunity for both students and professors. I hope that my reviews, as well as the reviews of all other professors serving the program, may help students to see things differently (explore different literature streams, research methods, or statistical analyses), which overall may enhance their learning, develop critical thinking, and stimulate innovative ideas. Also, reviews from professors at international institutions may assist students in preparing their work for submission to an international conference or journal. Similarly, the faculty advisors of the students whose theses are being reviewed may benefit from this influx of ideas, learn something new to benefit their own research, and convey this knowledge to their future students. As professors and researchers, we never stop learning.
- I am glad you mentioned the benefits of inviting international scholars to review our students' research. Our program prides itself for being internationally oriented. What do you think we could do to further improve in this direction?
I think that the Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism Management program already provides a lot for the students to be exposed to the international research studies in the hospitality and tourism field. I know that a lot of invited speakers are visiting the program from different universities. There are exchange programs offered to students. From my reviewer experience, I noticed that students are successful in reviewing literature written in both Russian and English languages. I think all of that is great. In addition, I believe students may benefit greatly if they would have a chance to attend an international research conference. Conferences are a great place to see a lot of research activity in one place, network with other scholars, and exchange ideas. And, for the external review process I may suggest involving an external reviewer in early research stages. This could work as a mentorship program where a student would be able to run the ideas by a professor at another university who is an expert in a certain field, or by an industry professional who would be able to reflect on a practicality of the research. Such practice may assist students in developing conceptually strong and methodologically sound research that matters to the industry. I personally would have been happy to be available to those students whose theses I reviewed in case I could have been of any help as they were shaping their research.