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Q: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations
Category: Reference, Education and News > Teaching and Research
Asked by: nautico-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 01 Oct 2003 12:06 PDT
Expires: 31 Oct 2003 11:06 PST
Question ID: 261908
Years ago I remember finding and accessing a searchable online
database of PhD dissertations, but I'm no longer able to find anything
like it today. What I'm after is a central (NOT university specific)
commercial database searchable by author's name and resulting in a
short abstract. A site that also offers the option of purchasing a
copy would be nice, but not a requirement.

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 01 Oct 2003 12:28 PDT
Could this be what you're seeking?

Clarification of Question by nautico-ga on 01 Oct 2003 12:58 PDT
Pink, that's exactly the kind of service I seek, though this one
doesn't have the depth I need. I need a database that includes
dissertations back to, say, 1960. That probably means it will have had
to be in existence since the mid 80s. I remember that the last time I
saw such a database was in the days just before Windows came out. It
was searchable in DOS. Perhaps no such online database exists today.
If it did, it would have to have received hundreds of newly scanned in

Clarification of Question by nautico-ga on 01 Oct 2003 13:58 PDT
Tehuti, please post your comment as an answer. Dialog's Dissertation
Abstracts Online comes closest to what I seek. Now all I have to do is
learn how to access the beast.
Subject: Re: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations
Answered By: tehuti-ga on 02 Oct 2003 04:21 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello nautico,

Obviously your best way would be to find a university or other library
that can provide you access to this database through their own
subscription.  Even if you had to pay for your use, it would
undoubtedly cost less.  If this is not a feasible option, then Dialog
seems the only other obvious access point.

Reaching Dissertation Abstracts through Dialog is not as complex as it
might seem, although you do have to know your way through Dialog’s
torturous labyrinth of service provision.

Here is your route:

Dialog subscriptions are aimed at institutions.  Although the final
per item price works out lower, the requirement for a constant
subscription plus minimum spends makes this unrealistic for most
individual users.

However, Dialog do offer the possibility to do one-off searches and
pay for them by credit card through the Open Access service: “All you
need is a credit card to receive instant access to the power of
DialogSelect. No passwords, monthly fees or minimum charges.
Conducting searches and displaying title lists of search results is

You will note there is no obvious route to your goal.  Bear with me,
and select the “Engineering” Industry Center, even if your queries
have nothing to do with engineering.  The “search now” link and the
link from “Engineering” lead to the same page: 

From the navigation bar on the left, select “Reference Information”. 
Four links appear, of which the last is “Dissertations and Theses”. 
Follow this and, voila, you find yourself on a search page for
Dissertation Abstracts.  Your guess is as good as mine as to why
Dialog thinks only engineers want to consult this database!

Unfortunately, it is not possible to search on abstracts, only on
title, author and institution.  However, since thesis titles are
usually quite descriptive, this is perhaps not as bad a limitation as
it might seem.

Although it is not obvious from the query page, it is possible to use
sophisticated search techniques rather than just throw words into the
title box.  Dialog’s search tips (the ?tips button) give the following
(non-engineering!) example:
“Enter words that appear in the title. For different word endings, use
the ? wildcard. Example: REDUC? searches for reduce, reduces,
reducing, reduction, etc. Combine words to get specific information.
More-detailed help on searching is available by using the “more search
tips” button lower down the page.

In order to ascertain that the whole database is present, and not just
an engineering subset, I searched on one of my favourite composers and
found two theses had been produced in 2002-2003.

The display gives only the following details about the theses:

1 Compositional techniques in Monteverdi's "Magnificats": Their
relationship to text and changing aesthetics (Claudio Monteverdi,
Italy) - 2002 - Dissertation Abstracts Online - US$2.90
 2 "The creation of Frankenstein": An opera in one act (four scenes)
(Mary Shelley, Claudio Monteverdi) - 2002 - Dissertation Abstracts
Online - US$2.90

Incidentally, these details indicate that key words are also assigned
to each title, which increases the power of the search.

The US$2.90 is NOT the fee to purchase the thesis.  It is the fee to
display the full database record about the thesis, showing the author,
institution, abstract, page count, etc.  At the left of each title is
a check box.  Above the titles is a box showing the estimated cost for
this search.  At present it is set to zero.  If you select either or
both titles, the amount in the box changes to match.  At the top of
the page, there is a “new search” button, whose function is obvious,
and also a “cost” button.  Selecting the “cost” button will show how
many charges you have incurred on all the searches done in the current
session where you have opted to purchase some or all of the records

Clicking on “purchase selection” takes you to a page where you can
either set up a user account or sign in as a visitor. The difference
between these options is:

“Signing In as a Visitor
If you sign in as a visitor, your credit card information will remain
active until you log off or until you are automatically timed out (one
hour). For subsequent sessions, you will need to re-enter your credit
card information as is it not retained.

Registering as a New User
You may decide to set up an account with DialogSelect Open Access at
any time on the Sign In page section for New Users. Once you are a
registered user, you will only need to enter your user name and
password to proceed with your search.”

Hope this helps you to reach your objectives!
nautico-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Many thanks, Tehuti! This is exactly what I needed.

Subject: Re: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations
From: pinkfreud-ga on 01 Oct 2003 13:13 PDT
I haven't been able to locate anything as comprehensive as the
database you describe.

These are not exactly what you want, but might be of some use:
Subject: Re: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations
From: pinkfreud-ga on 01 Oct 2003 13:15 PDT
This list may be of some interest:
Subject: Re: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations
From: tehuti-ga on 01 Oct 2003 13:35 PDT
Hello nautico,

I feel confident that what you are seeking is the Dissertation
Abstracts database,  but have not posted this as an answer because the
abstracts do not go back as early as the 60s.

The DA database is "a definitive subject, title, and author guide to
virtually every American dissertation accepted at an accredited
institution since 1861. Selected Masters theses have been included
since 1962. In addition, since 1988, the database includes citations
for dissertations from 50 British universities that have been
collected by and filmed at The British Document Supply Centre. ...  
[from] "(Spring 1988), citations and abstracts from Section C,
Worldwide Dissertations (formerly European Dissertations), have been
included in the file. Abstracts are included for doctoral records from
July 1980 (Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume 41, Number 1)
to the present."

This information is from the Dialog "Blue Sheet", which also gives a
sample record from the database: 

Dialog could be a potential route of access if you cannot get to the
database via an institutional subscription at a university or other

No search strategy, because already am familiar with this database and
its availability on Dialog.
Subject: Re: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations
From: nautico-ga on 01 Oct 2003 14:10 PDT
The main prob with accessing a university-specific library is that one
must usually have a PIN to do so and PINs are almost always limited to
current faculty and students. Too bad, as we alums should have access,
Subject: Re: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations
From: read2live-ga on 02 Oct 2003 02:13 PDT
Hi, nautico,

I remember from the dark days of microfiche using the UMI service. 
UMI offered the Dissertation Abstracts database - which tehuti
comments on here, and as he says it gives citations back to 1861... 
but, again as pointed out, the abstracts only begin in the 1980s.

Proquest has taken over UMI, and you can now order theses and
dissertations through them: they have more than one million available
in paper and in microform.  See

Proquest/ UMI also offer the digital dissertation database, so many of
the newer papers are available online, as .pdf documents.

They also offer two year's worth, the last two years, of abstracts and
citations as a free service:  "As a visitor, you will be able to
freely access the most current two years of citations and abstracts in
the Dissertation Abstracts database. To search the entire database of
more than 1.6 million titles, you will need to connect from a
subscription institution."  Get there from

Happy studies!  r2l
Subject: Re: Searchable online database for PhD dissertations
From: tehuti-ga on 02 Oct 2003 10:03 PDT
Thank you, nautico, for the kind words and tip.

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