November 1997

Root Page of Article: Problems and Possibilities of Electronic Theses and Dissertations, by Christian Weisser, John Baker, and Janice R. Walker

Print Sources About ETDs

  • Atkinson, Ross. "Networks, Hypertext, and Academic Information Services: Some Longer-Range Implications." College and Research Libraries 54.2 (1993): 199-215.

    This article explores some of the future implications of computer networks and hypertextual documents, and the roles that librarians might assume in developing that information as a scholarly resource. Ross also discusses the author/audience relationship, and how that is likely to change in light of rapidly developing computer technology and the proliferation of electronic networks. Further, the article describes how libraries might assist with the work of college-based publications, help writers index what they publish, and create new formats for electronic publishing. Ross also cites Jay David Bolter's ideas in Writing Space, and argues that Bolter "misinterprets" some of the operating principles of language (205). According to Ross, writers must exercise some authority or control over what they write--in electronic and traditional print formats--if communication is to occur. However, hypertextuality offers writers and readers an extra dimension beyond print formats, whereby t exts can be linked electronically to other texts via an electronic network. Ross suggests that hypertext and networks will mean less commercial influence on academic publishing and more control by the academy. He also points out the writer's responsibil ity for indexing e-texts, and the reader's need for structure in e-texts for ease of access.

  • Haas, Stephanie W. "Quotations in Scholarly Text: Converting Existing Documents to Hypertext." Computers and The Humanities 28.3 (1994-5): 165-75.

    Given that traditional print text and hypertext are totally different mediums, designers of hypertext must help readers utilize e-documents while retaining possibilities offered by print as well. Haas defines scholarly documents as those written in a linear form, with definite starting and ending points; however, readers do not necessarily read print documents in a linear fashion, and may skim or use other reading tactics. Thus, Haas argues, among other requirements a hypertext document should be designed to allow readers to follow sequentially, "in the order intended by the author" (168). Readers of hypertextual documents also should be able to depart from a sequential approach, and enjoy benefits such as being able to click on and access parent material that is being quoted. When readers can take advantage of such links, then hypertext is utilized in ways that offer more benefits than traditional printed texts. Haas also offers guidelines on the structure and content of nodes, or the texts which are linked to theses and dissertations. Depending on the context, a node might include a complete sentence, several sentences, or even paragraphs, the point being to offer the reader quoted material as it appears in a parent source. The article also discusses how to design hypertextual displays in regard to flow of the text and ease of navigation.

  • Hartman, Donald K., and Manuel D. Lopez. "Dissertations: An Online Dilemma." College and Research Libraries 49 (1988): 78-84.

    This article describes problems and discrepancies researchers may face when they seek online information about dissertations and theses. In particular, Lopez and Hartman compare two bibliographic databases in terms of how well they cover questions pertaining to dissertations and theses, and show how uncertainties can result from such searches. When the authors used the Database of Databases, they found over 300 databases referred to dissertations and theses. This compares to 69 references to dissertations and theses found in a search of Knowledge Industry Publications Database. Interestingly, a search of Database of Databases failed to locate a reference to Dissertation Abstracts Online, a source that accounts for some 99 percent of dissertations in the United States, numerous dissertations in Canada, and dissertations from about 200 universities abroad. The article also includes the results of a survey of databases, which is intended to help scholars fill in gaps whil e doing online research. The authors point out that researchers who rely on a single source, such as Dissertation Abstracts International, may overlook significant data, since not all universities participate in the DAI program.

  • Lopez, Manuel D. "Dissertations: A Need for New Approaches to Acquisition." Journal of Academic Librarianship 14.5 (1988): 297-301.

    The author says that some librarians place a low value on doctoral dissertations and hence are reluctant to make these documents easily available for researchers. Lopez also cites his own study to show that, despite prevailing attitudes, most dissertations are never published and thus are not obtained in book-form by most libraries. The author suggests several reasons why academic writers may choose not to publish their dissertation research, including lack of interest in the topic, bad experiences as graduate students, and low financial return for the effort expended on rewrites of manuscripts. On the other hand, some academic writers do produce books based on dissertations, and evidence suggests that libraries often purchase such works which finally make it into print. Lopez questions why libraries adopt this practice, when the dissertations themselves could be obtained long before the research is printed in book form. The article also suggests that dissertations are under-utilized as an information source, and that greater inclusion of dissertations in databases may prompt scholars, government, and industry to use dissertations more often for research. Lopez describes a variety of bibliographic sources which include dissertations, such as Dissertation Abstracts International, Comprehensive Dissertations Index, and Dissertation Abstracts Online, among others.

  • McMillan, Gail. "Electronic Theses and Dissertations: Merging Perspectives." Cataloging and Classification Quarterly 22.3-4 (1996): 105-25.

    As more and more electronic theses and dissertations become available online, librarians are in a unique position to enhance the bibliographic information about these electronic resources. While in the future catalogers and other librarians should expect to deal more often with electronic text files, cataloging of e-documents does not have to mean much more work for librarians. According to Gail, lots of the information librarians need will be supplied by academic authors and/or included within the documents themselves. At some libraries, positions for catalogers are being reduced because scholars already have Internet search mechanisms at their disposal; however, despite cutbacks of cataloging staff, catalogers can use up-to-date software to simplify their tasks and still produce valuable information for researchers. Gail believes that education is important for students, faculty, librarians, and others involved with storage of and access to e-sources, while training plays an especially important role for librarians and catalogers. The author includes examples of work being done in this field, such as by UMI (University Microfilms International) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Gail notes that researchers often want all the information they can find, and in a variety of forms; because researchers normally seek that information from libraries, these institutions will assume an increasingly important role.


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