PhD writing tips

How To Use A Free Online Dissertation Database: Avoiding Typical Mistakes

Online dissertation databases are often available at every major university and international sites. These databases have been uploading projects since 1996 and producing PDF documents of papers published prior to 1996. Whether you are researching the database or uploading your work to it, there are a few things you can do to avoid making typical mistakes.

As a person seeking information from the database the following are a few pitfalls you may encounter:

  • Search terms
  • Catalog numbers
  • Ordering physical copies
  • Not full documents

Search terms-If you are researching data for your literature review, thesis or dissertation it is important to be exacting in the search criteria you use. There are thousands of examples across multiple universities on the international sites so being specific will reduce the amount of time searching these databases. Knowing the name of the institute where the research was originally published also helps.

Catalog numbers-Many of the Universities use catalog numbers in their databases. Knowing the catalog number of the works you are searching will aid you.

Physical copies-Older documents may still be on microfiche and not available for download. This requires the need to order a physical copy be sent, slowing your research.

Not full documents-Often, especially with the older pre-1996 papers, the author did not give authority for the entire document to be published. The online database only provides a summary with the author’s name and the location it was submitted.

If you are an author or graduate student posting your dissertation to an online database there are two major considerations to make:

  • Hinders book publishing possibilities
  • Embargo times
  • Most universities are requiring your project be uploaded to the online database. The great advantage is that you are sharing your knowledge is enriching the academic community. The major disadvantage is that if you plan to use the dissertation to publish further works, and the institution where you published puts it in their electronic holdings, a publisher will opt out of publishing any related information on the grounds that it has already been published.

    In order to avoid this issue, especially if you plan to publish is to opt out of publishing your work to an online data base or to place an embargo on it. An embargo places a time frame restricting access to the document. The terms will vary depending on the institution.

    Access to knowledge can be a benefit or a hindrance. Knowing how to avoid the mistakes of using online data bases will prevent those mistakes and get the results you require.

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