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The Spire Project: Theses and Dissertations
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Theses and dissertations are professional papers completed for higher degrees. They are long, dense and often very esoteric and convoluted. Trouble is, most theses and dissertations have no more than 12 copies ever - one always to the University Library, one with the author but others scatter to the wind. Thus, we must address first being able to find interesting theses, and then where to purchase or view these theses.

      Finding Theses 

Article ListResearch CommentarySeminar datesUpdate Notices to article list University Library Holdings The most promising and fast searches will be your local and regional University Libraries. You will be certain of access to any you find. All University Libraries hold a copy of past theses undertaken at their university. This gives rise to the unfortunate but necessary pastime of searching each local university library for relevant theses. The advantage here is masters and occasionally honours theses are indexed. Most often, just undertake a keyword search then add "thes*" (truncation of theses or thesis) or dissertation.

to article list Digital Archives of Theses
In theory, some theses should be available on the internet, particularly theses lodged electronically. There is a push for universities to accept electronic theses submission, and to build digital archives of theses. The embryonic National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDTLD - is just one such a project. There is a distributed and sequential keyword search to participating universities through its not particularly functional. In theory, this is an incremental improvement to searching library catalogues.
Keyword Search of Digital Libraries of NDLTD including

      National Directories 

Much of the indexing of theses and dissertations are undertaken by the many national libraries, with the notable exception of UMI in the US and ASLIB in the UK. This does not dramatically improve access, however, as the databases of titles and abstracts are themselves commercial and perhaps closed to you.

The Canadian Theses/Theses Canadiennes is a semi-annual bibliography of Canadian masters and doctoral theses. It is published by the National Library of Canada. This bibliography is available through Amicus, the bilingual information system of the National Library of Canada, at 70cents/search but $40/quarter minimum. For purchase/, seek the help of either Micromedia or UMI which has some kind of arrangement.

The German National Library Deutsche Bibliothek maintains Bibliodata, the national databank of publications - which includes German theses. Available through STN.

Aslib [UK] publishes Index to Theses with Abstracts Accepted for Higher Degrees by the University of Great Britain and Ireland A quarterly publication. This is the database available for subscription access through Many of these theses will be available to order through the British Library Document Delivery Service.

The Gale Directory of Databases lists THESA, a database of French theses. There is the online TheseNet ( which is in French. Start with the Scout Project Review.

Here in Australia, a list of theses was maintained from 1966 to 1991. Today only the Australian Education Index (1978+), produced by ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research),a directory listing citations and some abstracts to Australian work in education. AEI is bundled into Austrom, a common collection of Australian databases.

The Gale Directory of Databases also lists Dissertations and Theses of the ROC (Taiwan), and mention of a Brazilian database has also crossed my desk.

to article list Electronic Theses Databases
database Dissertation Abstracts Online, produced by UMI, delivers abstracts to most every doctoral dissertation/thesis in North America, some master's theses and some international theses. This is the definitive site to search, 1,400,000+ records, though you will need the help of your library to see more than the abstract. Further descriptions can be found from OVID Field Guides, DIALOG, Datastar, SilverPlatter, or FirstSearch. Some libraries will have subscribed to Dissertations Abstracts OnDisc - the CD-version of this database.
database The [British] Index to Theses with Abstracts is a print directory by ASLIB. This publication is also available as a database, available for site licenses through ( This source is quite comprehensive as can be seen with the University List.

to article list Purchase or Interlibrary Loans
I can only provide the leads at this time but there appear to be several initial starting points. 1_  The British Library Document Supply Centre supplies Theses through their document supply services. You will need to find the document number available through BLAISE but they do appear to help by email if you send them your topic. Start here. The British Library also serves UMI theses.

2_  The UMI Dissertation Services lets you buy electronically if you have the UMI Dissertation Number (from their database). Purchases cost US$30 for unbound print copies and take three weeks. Start here.

3_  Contact the Library Direct. If theses are unavailable through these two sources, try to contact the library directly, or approach a local library and seek help with an inter-library loan. With inter-library loans, there is likely to be a cost, it may take many weeks/months, and you may not be permitted to photocopy or take home the thesis.


Getting a thesis can be very difficult. You will need the help of a document delivery through a library and many theses will not be available to borrow. You can also buy theses. Read Obtaining Copies of Dissertations by Yale University Library for more.

A note on developments in this field. Some thesis abstracts are emerging online already. Projects like the LA Theses Database (Landscape Architecture Theses Archive) have much promise but poor coverage as yet. Full text theses presentation also have promise with the US Department of Education funding a National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations and Virginia Tech starting to request electronic submission of all theses.

UMI (the producers of Dissertation Abstracts Online) has backed this move with a direct delivery service of electronic theses to US libraries for $26 but only theses held in their digital archives are available. Eventually, large digital theses archives will be the norm but until then, very little will happen in this field. to article list

It is not easy to get your hands on theses - and some will simply not be available for you to view. The Kings college London reports "It is not usually possible to obtain Cambridge University theses". Birmingham University reports "occasionally an author may place an embargo on the consultation of a thesis for up to four years." There are several avenues.

1_ Ask for an interlibrary loan through your university library. Theses are likely to only be available microfilm, to be viewed in the library.

2_ Search a collection of databases and then order the thesis directly through the document delivery service they maintain.

Further Assistance
webpage There are few useful tools for locating theses but for an alternative take, read Locating Theses by the Monash University Library.
webpage Electronic Theses and Dissertations in Yahoo.
to article listThe Spire Project - better ways to find information.
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