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Documentation of original research completed as required for a graduate degree; a lengthy, formal written treatise or thesis, especially one required by universities in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph.D. degree. A dissertation is judged as to whether or not it makes an original contribution to scholarship. Lesser projects (a master's thesis, for example) are judged by whether or not they demonstrate mastery of available scholarship in the presentation of an idea.
Most academic libraries act as institutional repositories for theses completed there.
Most dissertation authors are happy to submit a copy of their dissertation for inclusion in the library stacks. Some authors even order extra copies, usually produced by the bindery.
In one curious case, however, the relation of the author and the library was far less amicable. The University of California at Santa Barbara refused to accept the thesis (or even grant a degree) of a student who added, instead of acknowledgments, a page of "disacknowledgements," which included profane remarks about the library staff. The student successfully sued to have the degree granted.
Although most dissertations are printed works, a few have accompanying materials in other formats. Many authors, especially those in the humanities, rework their dissertation for their first publication. Some libraries have begun to digitize their theses, raising questions about access and author rights.
Dissertations submitted to universities in North America are indexed and abstracted in Dissertation Abstracts International, a database available from FirstSearch or ProQuest. In most academic libraries, copies of dissertations may be ordered from ProQuest (formerly University Microfilms Inc. (UMI)) for a fee via interlibrary loan or document delivery service.
Searching for and retrieving dissertations can be difficult for some library users, especially those unfamiliar with such publication types. For example, a searcher may follow an OpenURL link from a library database that indexes dissertations and end up at the library's OPAC record for Dissertation Abstracts, thereby believing to have found the record for the complete title. In truth most dissertations must be obtained via interlibrary loan.
Titular colonicity is a common characteristic of dissertation titles.
- Intellectual Property and Electronic Theses "The role of this briefing paper is to raise awareness of the main issues involved when converting paper-based theses into a digital format." from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) Legal Information Service (UK)
- List of dissertation and theses search sites from DIG_REF
- UMI ProQuest Digital Dissertations A popular commercial content provider