Dissertation Search
December 7, 2004 11:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for dissertations and theses on a particular subject. UMI's Digital Dissertations, which as far as I can tell is the largest central resource, won't allow me to search for anything before 2003. Do I have a good single source option apart from visiting a university library and using Web of Knowledge? Coverage at Google Scholar seems a bit scattershot, but maybe I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
posted by lbergstr to Education (9 answers total)
Try this.
posted by JohnR at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2004

Response by poster: "dissertations and theses"

Anything peer-reviewed, actually, dunno what I was thinking.

thanks JR, that looks great.
posted by lbergstr at 12:11 PM on December 7, 2004

I don't know what subject you're searching for, but there's always CiteSeer.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 12:32 PM on December 7, 2004

If you do want to find dissertations, I'd really recommend visiting a local university library and using the Dissertation Abstracts database or the print volumes of Dissertation Abstracts.
posted by gnat at 12:37 PM on December 7, 2004

The best way to do it is probably to find the most recent dissertation (or a peer-reviewed survey article if such a thing exists) on the topic. If it is good, it will cite nearly everything (or at least, a lot) for you, as well as providing an overview of the literature it cites. Also, if you can find someone who is working on the topic, and if you email them and they are friendly, they may be able to suggest some pointers.

This said, aside from the resources you already know about, doing thorough literature searches seems to an art. There will always be things you miss, and academics play games trying to outdo each other finding the oldest suggestion of some idea, esp. in fields where very old writing can still be relevant (e.g. philosophy).
posted by advil at 12:48 PM on December 7, 2004

You might want to try this:

1. Go to Google advanced search

2. Put the file format as PDF

3. And return only results from either .edu or .ac.uk domains

4. Type dissertation in the search query


You get a lot of dissertation style guides. But when you type in the subject that you want to research in the search query, you do return a lot of good results.

I applaud Google Scholar. But this method always works better.

And of course, it also works for any other academic research that you want to do.
posted by timyang at 10:54 PM on December 7, 2004

You should be able to search Digital Dissertations for theses before 2003 - I know I've downloaded ones from before then, and seen the references for older ones.

Problem is that the full database seems to be only available to subscribers (I just checked with my uni proxy server and without). So the best bet is to go to a nearby university library and use their computers, if possible. Or else, as gnat suggests, go to the original (Dissertation Abstracts). Or email a friendly metafilter member (address is in my profile) to tell what you are looking for, and maybe someone with a uni account will just look it up for you.

*Qualification: Proquest (aka Digital Dissertations) and Dissertation Abstracts are for North America only. Lots of good research elsewhere in the world (including in English) will not appear in these databases.
posted by jb at 11:08 PM on December 7, 2004

I just noticed you are looking for any peer-reviewed schoarship. Every field will have its own idiosyncratic bibliographic databases - you should say what field you are looking for, in case anyone can direct you to a specific database - some are free to the public.

Just a few (that I happen to know / have used)

Medicine - PubMed
British or Irish history - RHS Bibliography

I'm confused by the Oaister project - it sounds like a good idea, but because so many important databases are proprietary and subscription only (like Digital Dissertations or J-stor), would it be able to provide free access to them?
posted by jb at 11:17 PM on December 7, 2004

Oaister wouldn't provide free access to subscription library databases. Some of the web only resources here are a good start, but if you want to be thorough about academic research, going to a university library and using the subscription databases is your best bet :)
posted by gnat at 8:26 AM on December 8, 2004

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