November 1997

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

Universities Online

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 Project (ETD)"

    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:

    • 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 work.

    • 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.

    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.
  • 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, Aalborg University.

    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.

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