Is there some place I can access PhD dissertation abstracts?
November 5, 2018 6:54 AM   Subscribe

My fictional character is a sociologist or anthropologist (or possibly historian). I am none of those things. In order to home in on her specialty, I'd like to peruse dissertation titles and abstracts. Is there some way for me, a non-academic, to do that?
posted by swheatie to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes many graduate university programs make that information publically accessible online.

You can search "dissertation abstracts" and a school name to find out.

Here is an example of one that is public:

Go to advanced search, select sociology or anthropology or history as the subject and the abstracts will come up.
posted by lafemma at 6:59 AM on November 5, 2018

Any University library.
posted by Dashy at 6:59 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Most universities make them available through their libraries. Public universities are likely to make them publicly available; for instance a link to Minnesota's dissertation database is here.
posted by dbx at 7:01 AM on November 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

ProQuest is the company that makes copies of most US dissertations available for sale. I can't figure out what you can access for free, though I'm sure you can at least look at titles.
posted by FencingGal at 7:19 AM on November 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

My Masters thesis is in the Brown University library catalog. That's probably nearly universal.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:36 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Google Scholar also aggregates them, especially the ones made public via university websites
posted by inevitability at 7:53 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah there’s almost too many options. Far easier to read dissertations and abstracts for free online than most any other type of scholarly work.

If you could narrow down your interests, you might get more targeted resources.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:59 AM on November 5, 2018

The British Library gets an electronic copy of every successful PhD thesis and these are made available through Ethos. If you change the drop down to 'Newest' and enter a search term pretty much each link will include the associated abstract. Older ones are less likely which is why you want newest. Ethos has been a bit wobbly today so you might have to revisit.
posted by biffa at 9:19 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

ProQuest offers an open-access dissertations and theses database called PQDT Open, which you can use without a subscription.
posted by arco at 9:38 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you, all! Sounds like this is one of my life's more easily solved problems. Would that they were all so simple!
posted by swheatie at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2018

Everyone here has it right - University libraries are the best place and any university librarian will gladly help you. There are also a ton of places online to look.

You could also check out SocArXiv which is an open access (meaning anyone can read it) repository for preprint papers and stuff that can be put out in the public domain in the social sciences (built by sociologists so there are a lot of soc papers). It could also give you ideas of what a paper looks like when it's still a "working paper"

Also if you need a gut check on something, I'm a sociologist. I also have spent a lot of time with anthropologists and know a number of badass historians.
posted by mulkey at 6:48 PM on November 5, 2018

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