Problems and Possibilities of Electronic Theses and Dissertations,
by Christian Weisser, John Baker, and Janice R. Walker
The concept of electronic theses and dissertations had its origins at a 1987 meeting in Ann
Arbor arranged by UMI and attended by representatives of Virginia Tech, University of Michigan, SoftQuad, and ArborText. Following this
meeting, Virginia Tech funded development of the first SGML Document
Type Definition (DTD) for this purpose. In 1994, Virginia Tech began to accept student theses
and dissertations in PDF format, which is read with Adobe Acrobat
Reader. Recognizing the need for a format which allows for multimedia objects, however,
Virginia Tech is currently (since 1996) developing tools for students to
submit ETDs as SGML documents which will allow multimedia, are more easily archived, more
easily searchable, and, therefore, more valuable to the academic community.
As this software is being developed, many other universities are investigating and implementing ETD projects of their own. Auburn, Clemson, University of Pennsylvania,
Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Missippi State, and several other universities are all
currently involved in projects which will help to test and cultivate the new ETD software. USF
has recently begun, through the USF Task Force on ETDs, preliminary work which will lead to
the acceptance of electronic theses and dissertations within a few semesters.
Other countries have also begun implementing Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Aalborg University in Denmark successfully completed a four month
project which investigated the possibilities and problems of ETDs. Several libraries and
universities in Australia have begun to
look toward accepting ETDs and other forms of electronic scholarship.
As more and more universities begin to explore the potentials and possibilities of ETDs, we
can expect to see greater access to scholarship, more innovative uses of multimedia, and greater
acceptance of electronic forms of scholarship within the academic community. Clearly,
universities throughout the world have begun to notice that Electronic Theses and Dissertations
are becoming an important avenue of scholarship as we approach the 21st century.
- Virginia Tech's "Electronic Theses and Dissertation
Perhaps the most extensive source of information about ETDs. Virginia Tech. has
led the academic community in the effort to implement electronic formats of theses and
dissertations. This site contains:
This site should probably be your first stop if you are interested in ETDs. Often updated, Va.
Tech. has created a user friendly webpage filled with information designed to inform students,
educators, and universities how and why ETDs could and should be done.
- A digital library collection of all ETDs done at Va. Tech.
- A workshop for students attempting to use electronic formats to convert or submit their
- An extensive vision statement which describes ETDs and discusses their benefits.
- An ETD presentation designed for other universities which are interested in ETDs.
- Several press releases about their early efforts to successfully do ETDs.
- An extensive list of frequently asked questions about ETDs.
- A glossary of terms associated with ETDs.
- The University of Texas at
Austin Graduate Assembly "Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Digital Dissertations."
A report which was submitted to and approved by (April 1996) the Graduate Assembly at the
University of Texas at Austin. The report concerns the advocacy of Digital Dissertations based
upon a student request to submit a dissertation in CD ROM format. The report contains a section
on the advantages and cautions of digital dissertations--they list eight major issues that the
committee addressed. The committee was nearly unanimous in recommending that U of Texas
move forward with permitting and eventually requiring that all dissertations be deposited in some
digital format. The report lists short term and long term goals, recommending a move towards
electronic submission requirements by May 2001.
- Project on Digitalized PhD Theses,
This site briefly describes a four month project completed in the spring of 1996 at Aalborg
University in Denmark. The project was successful in most aspects. Most importantly, the group
discovered that the best and most effective way to digitalize theses was to convert them into a
PDF version. A minor site, but important in that it shows the global interest among universities in
electronic theses and dissertations.
University of Waterloo Electronic Theses Project
This site is designed to explore the governance issues and technical feasibility of submission,
storage, and distribution of ETDs. The University of Waterloo is currently involved in an
"Information Gathering Phase" concerning ETDs. This site contains a useful survey to further
discussions about ETDs which might be of interest to scholars, students, and administrators
concerned with ETDs projects.
Electronic Theses and Dissertations in the Humanities
Based at the University of Virginia, this site contains general information related to ETDs in the
humanities. It is designed primarily as an aid for graduate students attempting to secure approval
for their own ETDs. The site contains a directory of ETDs currently in progress, selected articles
on scholarly electronic publishing, and other related sources.