A dissertation is a book-length work prepared by a graduate student as a requirement for a doctoral degree (usually a Ph.D.)
A thesis is an in-depth essay prepared by a student as part of the requirements for a master's degree (usually M.A.) or for an undergraduate degree.
Students are often not required to make their dissertations or theses openly available to the public. Some choose to not have their works added to databases, or be printed, then added to a library. Those that are printed, bound, and added to a library are frequently added to non-circulating collections. This makes it sometimes challenging to obtain print copies through Interlibrary Loan. Cline's Document Delivery service will attempt to obtain print copies of dissertations from any library that owns a copy; just be aware it will take time and the request might be canceled.
International dissertations are often more challenging to obtain in print through Interlibrary Loan. Many libraries have their dissertations in a non-circulating collection, others are reluctant to mail internationally. Cline Library's Document Delivery service can attempt to order international titles, just be aware that the success rate is low. Whenever possible, try to locate a digitally-born copy through an online source like those within this guide.
This guide is designed to help users locate digitally-born dissertations.
NAU Dissertations and Theses
Tips for Finding Dissertations from the United States
Within the database be aware of full text options. For newer materials (after 2007), digital might be the only option for obtaining a free copy. Dissertations produced after 2007 frequently are only available in electronic format, with very few printed or added to libraries.
Be aware of the university where it was produced. Many universities have digital repositories where dissertations are placed. It is worth Googling the "school name AND digital repository". Once on the repository page, search by the dissertation title or author.
Free, full-text scholarly articles from hundreds of universities and colleges worldwide. Curated by university librarians and their supporting institutions, the Network includes a growing collection of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, dissertations, working papers, conference proceedings, and other original scholarly work.
This collection has the full text of many older theses and dissertations. There is no way to search just dissertations and theses, but if you have the author and title information, you may be able to find the full text.
The Institute of Historical Research has been collecting information about history PhDs and research Masters since the 1930s. You can browse or search the directory of theses completed from 1970s onward, as well as current research in progress, here.
Created by Virginia Tech, NDLTD is an international organization dedicated to promoting the adoption, creation, use, dissemination, and preservation of electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). NDLTD is the biggest consortium worldwide for online dissertations.
OATD.org aims to be the best possible resource for finding open access graduate theses and dissertations published around the world. Metadata comes from over 1100 colleges, universities, and research institutions. OATD currently indexes over 4 million theses and dissertations.
OAIster is a union catalog of millions of records that represent open access resources. This catalog was built through harvesting from open access collections worldwide using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Today, OAIster includes more than 50 million records that represent digital resources from more than 2,000 contributors.
OpenDOAR is a global Directory of Open Access Repositories that often include dissertations and theses.
A listing of open access repositories for electronic theses and dissertations. May be further limited by country and software type.
An open archive of theses from OSF Preprints. Includes the following subjects: Architecture, Business, Engineering, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Mathematics, Arts & Humanities, Education, Law, Medicine & Health Sciences, and Social & Behavioral Sciences.
U.S. University Digital Repositories
Digitally Born Dissertations (typically 2007 to present):
Many universities have digital repositories where authors can add their dissertations, articles, or chapters. These repositories often allow free downloads. Before submitting an Interlibrary Loan request for dissertations after 2007, it is often a good idea to Google the title to see if a full text option is available or attempt to locate the university's digital repository.
A sample of digital repositories that provide public access to theses and dissertations:
Several UA departments maintain their own archives of dissertations, masters theses, and other reports (including materials not submitted to the library). Check with individual departments or browse these online archives: