Marketing: Honors Research Seminar


The Honors Research Seminar is an opportunity to:

  • Learn scholarly practices (theory, experimental knowledge, ethics, etc.)
  • Conduct academic research 
  • Create an intellectual argument 
  • Compose a scholarly research paper

The program guides you through the process of writing an honors thesis in marketing. 


WHO is your professor?
An academic researcher in the scholarly field of consumer behavior  

Professor Kristin Diehl

The class is taught by Professor Kristin Diehl, Associate Professor of Marketing and an expert in consumer behavior who has been on the faculty at USC since 2005. Her research interests include understanding how consumers search for and use information, particularly in information-rich environments. She also studies how people anticipate, experience, and remember events that unfold over time, particularly when taking photos during such experiences. 

Professor Diehl was awarded the Evan C. Thomson Faculty Mentoring and Leadership Award from Marshall in 2017. She is also the recipient of the inaugural Early Career Award from the Association for Consumer Research and serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of Consumer Research. You can find more info about her here.

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WHY do an honors thesis in marketing?
To develop critical thinking and analytic skills 

The Honors Research Seminar is designed to help you systematically approach an Chenchen_faceforward_Kristin_Diehl's_marketing_symposiumunstructured problem in order to answer your question of choice. The processes and skills the class develops will benefit you in personal problem solving as well as in pursuit of employment or graduate school. 

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WHAT does it entail?
Hard work and intellectual gratification


You will begin the two-semester class (2 units each semester) in the spring of your junior year. The class guides you through developing an honors thesis by the end of the fall semester of your senior year.  The course meets once per week in a round-table, seminar style format. Each class session is designed to help you develop the skills necessary to conduct scholarly research in marketing. In addition, you will attend research talks in the marketing department, develop your own research ideas, design and conduct studies, and write your thesis. More detailed information is available under Course Info and Syllabi and by reading the comments of past students under Students’ Voices. A sample of past research topics is available under Past Projects.


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WHO are you?
A motivated student ready to advance intellectually and write an honors thesis in marketing


This course is open to Marshall students who have been invited to participate in the Marshall Undergraduate Honors Program based on their overall GPA and GPA within a major. Advanced classes in marketing are highly recommended in preparation and as a basis for you to develop novel research ideas. If you believe you are qualified and have not received an invitation, please talk to the Marshall Advising Office. 

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SYLLABI & Course Info
Course Overview

This two-semester class is designed to help you develop your own, unique research project on a topic related to marketing and take it from the initial idea to a completed research paper.

Over the course of the spring semester (BUAD 493), you will:

  • Discuss how to identify interesting research questions
  • Learn how to conduct a literature review
  • Develop and propose specific hypotheses 
  • Design ways in which your predictions can be tested empirically. 

The class will guide you through the process of writing a thesis proposal by the end of the spring semester. 

Over the course of the fall semester (BUAD 494), you will:

  • Conduct the empirical research required to test your hypotheses in order to complete your honors thesis 
  • Prepare and support your classmates in all aspects associated with this process (e.g., designing and implementing empirical studies, analyzing primary and secondary data, communicating study results, etc.). 
  • Work in close consultation with the class instructor based on your individual project.  

Find the syllabus for spring BUAD 493 and fall BUAD 494 below.

BUAD 493





BUAD 494

Honors Requirement

The formal requirements to graduate with Marshall Honors are:

  • Pass BUAD 493
  • Pass BUAD 494
  • Graduate with 3.5 or above GPA in the major
  • Graduate with 3.3 or above overall GPA.

NOTE: Even if you excel in BUAD 493, you must enroll in BUAD 494 in order to conduct research and submit an original thesis before you graduate to obtain the Marshall Honors designation.

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Students' Voices

Chloe Arriaga, Senior


“The class feeds my curiosity of the world and challenges the way I approach problems. No other class in Marshall has given me as big of an opportunity for hands-on learning.” - Chloe






James Compagno, Senior


“This class is a one-of-a-kind Marshall experience. You do a cost-benefit analysis and a class with four students and an outstanding teacher is not only rare, but provides great value.” - James                              







Chenchen Sun, Senior


“This class has changed my plans for the future.” - Chenchen







Lilian Aluri, Senior


“I've been able to fulfill [my] goals by taking this class. It's enabled me to pursue research that feeds directly into my personal and professional interests, while providing useful information to managers working in the non-profit industry.” - Lilian

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Past Projects

Research conducted for the honors thesis can span a wide range of questions and topics—the only requirement is that it pertains to factors that affect decisions made by consumers or companies. Questions should be framed such that the answers make a contribution to the field beyond what is already known and are not intended to solve an imminent business problem for a particular client company. 

Previous thesis projects have explored topics such as:

  • The Effectiveness of Word-of-Mouth Recommendation in an Individualistic Culture and a Collectivistic Culture: Do You Want to Purchase This Luxury Brand?
  • Spoilers and Anxiety: When Film Spoilers Might Not Be the Enemy
  • To See or Not to See: The Effect of Labeling Consumer-Generated Advertising on YouTube
  • Cultural Convergence in Consumers’ Reactions to Comparative Advertising in the United States and South Korea
  • Analyzing the Effects of Political Preferences and Negative Advertising on Voting Decisions
  • It Matters How You Ask: Using Social Impact Messaging in Nonprofit Fundraising
  • The More You Quantify, The Harder It Is to Accomplish It All: How Self-tracking is Less Effective in Sequential Tasks
  • To Be Heard or Hated: A Guide to Advertising When Using Guilt-Inducing Messages
  • Say What You Want, It Might Not Matter: Politics In Corporate Advertising Leads to Reactions But Not Changes in Consumer


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In the News....

2018 Graduates with Honors from Marshall

Four marketing students graduated with Honors from Marshall and also were recognized as Discover Scholars for producing “exceptional original scholarship while compiling a distinguished overall academic record”. They were Lilian Aluri, Chloe Arriaga, James Compagno, and Chenchen Sun. We congratulate them on a job well done!

Honors Graduates with Kristin Diehl
Lilian, Chloe, Dr. Kristin Diehl, James, and Chenchen.


2016 USC Libraries Research Award

Rebecca Tepper (left) and Dr. Folkes (right).


Rebecca Tepper (pictured with her advisor, Marketing Professor Valerie Folkes ) wrote an honors thesis that she submitted to a university-wide competition. She was one of the winners of the USC Libraries Research Award, which recognizes excellence and creativity in the use of USC Libraries’ research collections and services.