Part 5: Where can I make my PhD thesis available online?
Posted by atarrant

If, having considered all of the issues, you still feel that you want to make your thesis available online, the question you may now face is where to post it? This blog post explores where you can publish your thesis online and what options there are.

Library and university archives for E-Theses

According to Emily Kothe on Twitter (@emilyandthelime) some universities already require students to post their thesis online upon submission, along with paper copies. When I submitted in July 2011 I was not required to do this, but having contacted the librarian at the university where I conducted my PhD, I learned that it has now become a requirement for students submitting their thesis from 2011/2012 onwards to submit a further digital copy. I missed out on this but have been informed that if I want to, I can make it available through this outlet. At present I am uncertain who is aware of this service, other than students who submit their thesis to it from now on, or who can access the service beyond the university, if at all. According to the online deposit for Lancaster University (which you can view here) there are benefits to both the student and the university itself:

For the student

  • Increased visibility for your work
  • Easier access to your thesis
  • Raise your personal profile
  • Can use digital services such as links to datasets, videos etc.

For Lancaster University

  • Raise institutional profile
  • Showcase successful graduate research

There are several of these services now available and visible through a simple Google Search that PhD students in particular may find useful if they are looking for ways to structure their thesis and want to look at some examples of theses that have passed. Durham University depository and Nottingham University depository are good examples. It may be important too inform academic book publishers if your thesis is available in this way; these issues are discussed in Part 3 of this series.

Ethos – British Library

Rob Myers on Twitter (@robmyers) initially drew attention to Ethos, an electronic online thesis service run by the British Library (see Part 4 of this series about EThOS by Sara Gould). This is a site I had actually used myself when writing my PhD. I downloaded some theses in order to explore how they were structured and to access additional research in my topic area. My university does subscribe to the service and I was informed that “if a thesis is only available in print form, we send it to the British Library to be digitised, and the person making the request has to pay the British Library £40 towards the cost of digitisation”, not entirely free but eventually Open Access. There are now 44,000 online theses available, and to download a copy you first need to register so that records can be kept and to ensure the intellectual property of the author is protected.

Personal Blog Site

I have also considered posting a copy of the thesis to my own personal blog. Before I posted it online however I wanted to check copyright right and intellectual property issues, something that RuthFT (@RuthFT) warned me of and that I discuss in Part 2 of this series. Some universities hold intellectual property rights to the thesis even if you have written it and conducted the research for it so it is essential that this is considered before rushing ahead to do it. A librarian at my university informed me that because my thesis is an unpublished piece of work it can be uploaded online on my personal blog, as long as I respect and observe the rights of those who participated in the study, which of course is part of ethical research practices anyway. It is highly recommended that you check with your own institution first though because rules may differ.

There are therefore several places where the unpublished PhD thesis can be deposited online, if you deem the issues detailed in previous posts to be outweighed by the benefits of disseminating your research more widely. These are just a very few of those I have explored (in repsonse to Part 3 for example user moorbi, introduces us to GRIN, a free German publisher). Having researched this in greater detail, I am still concerned that by posting my thesis online I may face additional challenges in publishing a monograph. This ultimately has become an issue of Open Access and I have to admit I find it encouraging that universities (in the UK at least) and EThOS and the like, are making it easier for PhD researchers to make their PhD research available online.

I’d love to hear more about this issue, particularly if anyone is against doing this or has critiques of it (most people I have spoken to support onlinethesis). Please do get in contact if you want to add, or contribute any ideas and do let us know if you plan to submit your thesis online (#onlinethesis).

atarrant. Posted by atarrant


2 Comments Posted in Pitching & Publishing, Self Promotion
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2 Comments

  1. One issue particular to the growing body of creative practioners who practice in an academic environment is that that creative work also has a market value of itself. It’s not unlike the market value of – say – scientific conclusions; but it’s also not quite the same. This might not matter to sculptors or performance artists, but in the case of, say, painters, video artists, composers and writers – artists working in media which are easily transmissible and reproducible in digital form – it matters a great deal.

    For example, my PhD in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths (part of the University of London, at least at the moment) consists of my novel A Secret Alchemy, and a critical commentary on the practice and process of writing it, and the literary, theoretical and historical context of it and historical fiction in general.

    But the novel was commercially published by a major publisher before the PhD was submitted, let alone published. My publishers in the UK and the US would have been very angry indeed – and legitimately so – if a copy of the text that they had bought exclusive rights to publish had been floating around in the ether for anyone to download. And so would I.

    At least through EThos, the problem turned out to be easily dealt with. The critical commentary is available for download; the text of the novel is not, and that is made clear. The page references in the commentary refer to the Thesis version, so don’t tally with any of the published versions, but I can’t help that. I am not a salaried academic, but earn my living from my intellectual property, and have to protect that as and when I can.

  2. Dear atarrant! Publish it as a book!!! I like the setup they have over at GRIN: http://www.grin.com, but see for yourself. There are a lot of other publishers out there. I’ve previously used Cafepress and recently looked at a few of these as well. But I always ended up with GRIN – compare contracts and you’ll know. And I always got a quick and friendly response to my mails.

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