In honor of Open Access Week, the Goodson Blogson is highlighting another free research resource. Last week, we brought you the news that HeinOnline and the Law Library of Congress had teamed up to provide free public access to historical federal legal materials like the U.S. Code and U.S. Supreme Court cases. Today, we're featuring a new free resource for historical doctoral dissertations.
Earlier this month, EBSCO announced the release of American Doctoral Dissertations 1933-1955, a free digitized index of nearly 100,000 doctoral dissertations which were accepted by American universities during those three decades. The database, available at http://opendissertations.com/, includes scans of a print index set, Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by American Universities, which is also available in the Duke University Libraries' off-site storage facility.
Searching this free database does not include the same features as other EBSCO-produced subscription databases, but expert field codes are available to perform more advanced searching. For example, to retrieve a list of dissertations from Duke University on the subject of law, use the Advanced Search AF(duke) and KW(law). To limit your search keywords to only the title of the document, try an Advanced Search like TI("supreme court"). Results include a scan of the printed index's relevant page, rather than the full text of the dissertation. However, the increased accessibility of this index should help researchers uncover useful citations from this time period for retrieval.
The full text of many dissertations can be found online via ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. This subscription database, available to the Duke University community and to on-site visitors, offers full-text PDFs for selected dissertations as well as indexing back to the 1860s. ProQuest also offers free access to the full text of open-access dissertations in its collection, via PQDT Open.
Dissertations not available in full-text via these ProQuest databases will likely require an interlibrary loan request. The text would have to be supplied from either the degree-granting institution or from a library which owns a microfilmed copy. For help with locating the full text of a dissertation, be sure to Ask a Librarian.