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Dissertations, Theses, and the Scholarly Record: Earning a Ph.D. Is Hard Work. No One Is Likely to Disagree with That Thesis Statement. Regardless of the Discipline, Doctoral Students Devote an Enormous Amount of Time Researching Their Topic, Examining Their Data, Collecting Their Thoughts, Writing a Dissertation, and Defending It before a Panel of Professors, Often in the Presence of Their Peers. Librarians Are There to Help with the Process

Magazine article Online Searcher

Dissertations, Theses, and the Scholarly Record: Earning a Ph.D. Is Hard Work. No One Is Likely to Disagree with That Thesis Statement. Regardless of the Discipline, Doctoral Students Devote an Enormous Amount of Time Researching Their Topic, Examining Their Data, Collecting Their Thoughts, Writing a Dissertation, and Defending It before a Panel of Professors, Often in the Presence of Their Peers. Librarians Are There to Help with the Process

Article excerpt

"Dissertation" is the word most often used to describe the final written product of a Ph.D. student. The word "thesis" is applied to the culmination of master's-level research studies and, sometimes, at the bachelor's level, although the term "capstone project" is also common for those earning a bachelor's degree. These terms can vary by institution and geolocation, so if a database says it contains dissertations, it's best to ascertain what the database producer means by that.

DISSERTATION ABSTRACTS

The database librarians (and students) think of first when it comes to finding this type of literature is Dissertations Abstracts. Tracing the lineage of the publisher of Dissertation Abstracts resembles an exercise in corporate genealogy. First there was University Microfilms, Inc., soon shortened to UMI, founded by Eugene Power in 1938. It was in 1951 that the Association of Research Libraries approved UMI as the provider of dissertation services, which inaugurated Dissertation Abstracts.

If one follows the corporate genealogical bouncing ball, one encounters Bell & Howell, which bought UMI from Xerox in 1985. It changed the name to Bell & Howell Information and Learning and, due to another acquisition, to ProQuest Company, and then, in a somewhat retroactive move, to ProQuest Information & Learning. When Cambridge Information Group bought ProQuest in 2007 and adopted the ProQuest name for the company, it inherited the dissertations database. The UMI nomenclature lingers as ProQuest UMI Publishing, the arm of ProQuest to which students submit their dissertations and theses.

Dissertation Abstracts, aka Dissertation Abstracts International in print and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (PQDT) online, focuses primarily on Ph.D. dissertations granted by U.S. universities. The printed version dates from 1938, but the online database has a retrospective file that dates back to 1861. It began adding selected master's theses in 1962 and has included citations for dissertations from 50 British universities since 1988. The U.K. ones are sourced from The British Document Supply Centre. Dissertation Abstracts and Theses also has a limited number of dissertations from outside the U.S. and the U.K., but that is not its strong point historically. It is now concentrating on building up its international scope.

Dissertation Abstracts and Theses, as of the end of 2019, contained some 5 million citations, with about half of those in full text. It is available only on the ProQuest (as Dissertation Abstracts and Theses Global) platform and the Dialog Solutions (as Dissertation Abstracts and Theses Professional) platform, both of which require a subscription. However, a subset is available for free.

PQDT Open (pqdtopen.proquest.com) contains a little more than 48,000 dissertations and theses published between 1951 and 2019. The drop-down menu for date begins with 1951, but the oldest one in the database seems to have been published in 1964, with two in 1970 and one in 1971. Basic search shows a single search box and gives you the ability to limit by date. Clicking on More Search Options allows for limiting by author, title of dissertation/thesis, publication number, school/institution, advisor, and keywords/description. Results can be sorted by relevancy, most recent, and oldest first.

A few dissertations show up in specialized databases. GeoRef contains master's theses and doctoral dissertations from U.S. and Canadian universities in the field of geology. Global Health has some non-English-language dissertations on public health issues. Both INSPEC and PaperChem include some dissertations in their specialty areas. OCLC's WorldCat database has a Thesis/dissertations option to limit by Content as part of its advanced search.

FREE ACCESS TO DISSERTATIONS

EBSCO has a free dissertations database. EBSCO Open Dissertations (opendissertations.com or biblioboard.com/open dis sertations) stems from a print index, Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by American Universities, published by the H. …

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