Open access to electronic theses and dissertations


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Electronic Theses & Dissertations (ETDs)

Showing 47 items. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Digital Archive on Agricultural Theses and Journals http. Theses Canada. Because its authors don't expect to be paid, and write for impact rather than money, they can consent to OA without losing revenue. That makes it much easier for scholars to consent to OA than musicians or movie-makers. Phase Two is to provide OA to royalty-producing literature like books. This is harder because the copyright holder must be persuaded that OA will either increase sales or bring benefits that outweigh the loss of sales.

If you've been following the book-digitizing wars, you know that some authors are persuaded and some are not. Phase Three is to reform copyright law in order to reduce permission barriers.

Access a Thesis or Dissertation Online

It would help to shorten term of copyright, extend the first-sale doctrine to digital content, restore fair-use rights, nullify clickwrap licenses as contracts of adhesion, and safeguard the public domain from further prospective or retroactive enclosure. But because these steps require legislation, and are opposed by well-funded industries, they are the most difficult of all. Fortunately, they're merely desirable and not necessary for OA.

We can get all we need from Phases One and Two. For cutting-edge research published in journals, we can get all we need from Phase One. First point: Dissertations are Phase One literature, just like journal articles. Graduate students are not paid for their dissertations and can consent to OA without losing revenue.

Their consent is even easier to obtain than the consent of faculty members, since dissertations are already subject to the terms and conditions of the university. If there's a difference, it's that authors of journal articles know they'll never be paid for those texts, but some grad students plan to turn their dissertations into books that generate or could generate revenue. I'll return to this possibility. But note that it's the future book that's Phase Two; the dissertation is still Phase One.

I've read about 30 university web pages on ETD policies. What's remarkable is the way they list the benefits of OA wider visibility and greater impact among the benefits of ETDs as if OA were a natural consequence of creating the work in digital form. In principle, universities could require electronic submission of the dissertation without requiring deposit in the institutional repository.

They could also require deposit in the repository without requiring OA. But in practice, most universities don't draw these distinctions. Most universities that encourage or require electronic submission also encourage or require OA. What's remarkable is that for theses and dissertations, OA is not the hard step. The hard step is encouraging or requiring electronic submission. For dissertations that are born digital and submitted in digital form, OA is pretty much the default.

I needn't tell you that this is not at all the case with journal literature. There are two lessons to draw from this. It's been part of the ETD movement since the beginning.


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They're already ETDs even if the university only wants to deal with printouts. Their authors lose no revenue by consenting to OA. Hence there are no publishers in the picture to resist or oppose OA. There are no publisher fears of lost revenue to answer. There are no publisher permissions to seek. There are no publisher negotiations to delay or deter OA archiving. This is the universal lesson from OA mandates to date, whether at funding agencies or universities.

It hoped that the increased flexibility would increase participation, but it had the opposite effect. Australia registers all accepted dissertations, giving it a good sense of the denominator, or the number of dissertations eligible for OA. The OA repositories themselves give a good sense of the numerator, or the number that are actually OA at a given time. Without OA, there is almost no access, visibility, or indexing for dissertations. They are hard to retrieve even if discovered, and they are hard to discover.

But it also helps the ETD authors, boosting their visibility and impact just as it does for the authors of journal articles. They can make it a simple condition of submission and acceptance. In fact, if universities mandate OA for ETDs, their compliance rates should be higher, and grumbling lower, than mandating OA for faculty research articles. Graduate students are not as anarchical as faculty, or at least not tenured; graduate students won't be subject to countervailing pressures from publishers, at least not as often; and graduate students more likely to see the benefits of OA and the obviousness of taking advantage of the internet to disseminate research.

Universities that don't have institutional repositories can still mandate OA. The best way is to launch their own IR. They could use the universal repository I'm setting up with the Internet Archive delayed but still coming. Young scholars are already more familiar with OA than older ones, at least in the sciences. But even knowledgeable young scholars may not have much experience providing OA to their own work, let alone support and reinforcement from an important research institution. An OA mandate will teach new scholars how easy it is, how beneficial it is, and how routine and expected it ought to be.

It will teach them that OA is not incendiary and countercultural, but mainstream and simply useful. It will help create lifelong habits of self-archiving. The greatest obstacle to routine self-archiving is unfamiliarity with the process, including groundless fears of the time it takes. Familiarity removes this obstacle.

Including a publication in an ETD

All teachers know that students work harder and do better work when they know they are writing for a real audience—large or small—beyond the teacher. The effect is amplified if they are writing for the public. Some teachers try to harness this power by telling students to write as if their work were to appear on the front page of the New York Times. Some arrange to give students a real audience beyond the teacher.

In a law course in which I conducted moot court, the quality of student preparation and argument improved dramatically after I started videotaping them. I didn't even have to put the videos online; I just put them on reserve in the library for the rest of the semester. OA gives authors a real audience beyond the dissertation committee and real incentives to do original, impressive work. I wrote my dissertation on Kierkegaard's dissertation. The members of my committee were strong on Kierkegaard in general, but comparatively weak on his dissertation.

There were many spots in my dissertation where I could have bluffed if wanted to.

Electronic Theses & Dissertations (ETDs)

But even when grad students think it's safe and easy to fool their committee, it's risky and difficult to fool the world. The university asks for a new and significant work of scholarship and most students deliver one. But because the university doesn't disseminate the dissertation publicly, it sends a subtle signal that it doesn't take it seriously as a work of scholarship. Of course the dissertation committee takes it very seriously as a work of scholarship, but the university itself doesn't do what it normally does when its scholars produce new and important work: it doesn't apply its publish-or-perish policy.

This policy not only proclaims that research good enough for internal recognition is good enough for external distribution. It also proclaims the stronger converse that only research good enough for external distribution is good enough for internal recognition. Universities have the same interests in promulgating excellent research by grad students as they have in promulgating excellent research by faculty, the same reasons for taking pride in it, and the same reasons for applying a publish-or-perish policy or public dissemination mandate.

It wants the world to know about the quality of the work done there and it wants other researchers to benefit from it. Of course the dissertation is also an admission ticket and a rite of passage. Writing a dissertation is a lot like entering the wilderness alone, fasting to delirium, killing a wild animal, and then returning to civilization where one is welcomed as an adult.

Open Educational Resources for Humanities & Social Sciences: Electronic Theses/Dissertations (ETDs)

Article Tools Print this article. Indexing metadata. How to cite item. Dalton, Ann Hanlon, Heather S. Smith, Chelsea Kern.

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