November 1997

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


Of course, like print, electronic publication also has limitations. Access to hardware and software, access to telephone connections, and knowledge of protocols can limit access to important information if it is only available online. UMI, of course, makes the works available in print formats for those who cannot retrieve them electronically. Print forms, too, have limitations--they cannot include multimedia elements, obviously (although publication of media such as CD-ROM is a possibility), but, moreover, print documents cost more to reproduce, they are more time-consuming to publish, and the inter-library loan programs take time as well. Many theses and dissertations are now mouldering, unread, in our libraries. Electronic publication can make these works accessible to students, researchers, and others who perhaps lack the time, search capabilities, finances, or other resources to locate them in traditional print formats. At the same time, as educational institutions further develop distance-learning programs, administrators can use availability of these e-documents as yet another marketing tool.

Electronic publishing of important works of scholarship such as theses and dissertations can, ultimately, have a powerful impact on our concept of scholarly publishing in general. Many scholarly journals, particularly in the hard sciences, have already begun publishing online. Students, and faculty, need to be familiar with reading, writing, and research in electronic formats, and to begin thinking of "text" as more than mere words on paper. ^

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