November 1997

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

How Does It Work?

Most students are already preparing their theses and dissertations in electronic format--word processing formats--which are readily converted to .pdf format using Adobe Acrobat. Adobe offers a free program to read these files, Acrobat Reader, on the World Wide Web. In addition, many new word processing programs offer conversion to HTML, a subset of SGML, that is easily readable using a browser, such as Netscape, on the World Wide Web.

Proposed Formats for Electronic Theses and Dissertations

  • Adobe Acrobat (PDF Files)

    Adobe Acrobat is a software program that allows for the transfer of documents created in any electronic software package that prints through Windows (i.e., word processors and other text processors) to be made available on the World Wide Web. The documents can be downloaded and read using the Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available for free downloading on the Web. It retains all formatting and graphics and may even allow for hot links and annotations. In addition, Adobe Acrobat files can be indexed and searched by key words.

  • University Microfilms International (UMI)

    UMI collects and distributes information via microform (both microfilm and microfiche), magnetic tape, paper, CD-ROM, and online, through ProQuest Direct, which enables users with a computer and a modem, or an Internet connection, to conveniently access UMI's vast collection of journals, periodicals, magazines, newspapers and other information sources. That information is available in image, text, and a unique UMI format that combines searchable text with graphs, charts and photos. Fees for full-text copies range from $29.50 to $69.50.

    • Submit ETDs in electronic format and supporting documents to UMI
    • Search for the ETD using ProQuest, Dissertation Abstracts International, or other available means
    • Order full-text copies in Microfilm/fiche, softcover, hardcover, or unbound paper copies.

  • SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language)

    Standard Generalized Markup Language uses tags (commands enclosed in brackets) within a document to embed various formatting codes, for example, <emphasis>...</emphasis>. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the language of WWW documents, is a subset of SGML, which uses specialized tags. SGML allows for embedding tags used in word processors and desktop publishing programs (such as PageMaker) and for the "exchange of information at any level of complexity among software, hardware, storage and presentation systems (including database management and publishing applications) without regard to the manufacturer's name on the label" (SGML Primer). The Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia already makes available thousands of text files marked up using SGML. These files are automatically converted to HTML when accessed by the user and can then be read online using a Web browser such as Netscape.


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