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Locating Dissertations and Theses

How to Locate Dissertations and Theses

Dissertation or Thesis - what is the difference?

dissertation is a book-length work prepared by a graduate student as a requirement for a doctoral degree (usually a Ph.D.)

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

NAU Dissertations on Proquest

Tips for Finding Dissertations from the United States

Start out by searching for dissertations using the Proquest Dissertations & Theses database

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.    

Dissertations from many U.S. and Canadian universities can be purchased online through ProQuest UMI Dissertation Express.  NAU does not purchase dissertations. 


Open Access Sources

Open Access Sources for Dissertations

Open Access sources are completely free, digital, and easy to obtain.  Most are instant access.

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: