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Research Help: Dissertations and Theses

How to read a thesis or dissertation under embargo

Some theses and dissertations may have a record in Open Scholarship, but the full text is not available. These works have been placed under embargo by the author. An embargo means that access to the work is limited, not that it is inaccessible. Electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) held by the Washington University Libraries under embargo may be viewed by a patron under controlled conditions that parallel conditions of print submission.

Contact Digital Library Services at digital AT wumail DOT wustl DOT edu with the title and author of the embargoed ETD you wish to read. Upon request, a print copy of the thesis or dissertation will be made available at the Special Collections reading room on the first floor of Olin Library. Special Collections is open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Photocopying, scanning, photographing, etc. of the ETD is not allowed. You may take notes but may not take the print copy with you. Embargoed ETDs are not available through Interlibrary Loan.

For more information, contact Digital Library Services at digital AT wumail DOT wustl DOT edu.

Understanding access to Washington University dissertations and theses:

Washington University Libraries, like most university libraries, has been the depository for theses and dissertations written by successful degree candidates at the university. In the past, students were required, as at most universities, to provide a bound copy of their work, which would be submitted to the library, where it would be catalogued and placed on the stacks.

Since 2009, degree candidates at Washington University in St. Louis have submitted their theses and dissertations electronically. Dissertations are submitted through ProQuest (an external service) while theses are submitted locally via the library. Bibliographic records are still created for all theses and dissertations.

As universities have transitioned to electronic theses and dissertations, the change in platform—along with other developments in scholarly communications and scholarly advancement—has created new issues in access and exposure. The prior practice of a submitting a bound, print copy of a dissertation to the library where it would be available in the stacks is analogous to the ETD available online only in limited ways. One of the more obvious differences is that the exposure of the latter is greater by orders of magnitude than the former, and it is simply the case that an author would not have anticipated that level of exposure for this kind of work a generation ago. There are a number of reasons why a degree candidate might not want his or her work at that level to receive that level of exposure—or might not want it to receive that exposure immediately after submission.

Many early career scholars in tenure-track positions, especially due to the pressures of the "tenure clock," elect to base a first monograph—typically required for tenure in the humanities—on a dissertation. Because of this, degree candidates have expressed concern that potential publishers of their projected work might be reluctant to publish a work that is widely available in a previous form (as a thesis or dissertation) and have elected to impose embargos on their work. These are for periods of 6 months, 1 or 2 years, as requested, or permanent.

However, an embargo means that access to the work is limited, not that it is inaccessible. It is possible to read embargoed works in an Olin Library reading room, by arrangement with the Digital Library Services staff. Users may call or email to set up reading appointments where a work will be printed for reading on the premises.

Degree candidates may also wish to have their works remain accessible, but not readily discoverable, which can be achieved by restricting the work from indexing by major search engines. A major strength of the Open Scholarship platform is the exposure its works have on the web, and works on that site cannot be restricted from indexing. Degree candidates wanting their works not to be indexed by search engines have them listed instead on the nonindexed etd page.

Options for locating Washington University dissertations and theses:

Search Open Scholarship
Search in Dissertations & Theses @ Washington University in St. Louis - More info
Perform an Advanced search to locate material by Advisor, Author, Title, Department, etc. This database displays full text (.pdf) of WU dissertations for on-campus users only, 1996-present.
Records for WU dissertations and theses can be found in the Washington University Libraries Catalog
The search strategies used in the Classic Catalog (below) do not work as well in the Catalog.
One possible search strategy: type any combination of words from title, author and/or department in the search box without punctuation and enter; then using REFINE on the right side of the screen, find Washington University (Saint Louis, MO) in the Author/Creator column and click on it.
Records for WU dissertations and theses can be found in the Classic Catalog
Search by Author - Example: Olson, Paul David
Search by Word - Example: phenotype plasticity and manihot or theses and manihot
Search by Department - You must perform Title search beginning with the word "Theses"
Theses. Bio, Theses. Engineering, Theses. English, Theses. Political
Note: This approach can be useful, but specific dissertations may not be where you expect. This indexing is based on what the author put on the title page, so entries are not always consistent. For example, a dissertation done in the Program in Developmental Biology may be under "Theses. Developmental Biology" or may be under "Theses. Biology and Biomedical Sciences."

Searching and requesting non-WU dissertations:

Dissertations & Theses (ProQuest) - More info
The complete range of academic subjects appearing in dissertations accepted at accredited institutions since 1861. Abstracts included from July 1980; abstracts for masters theses beginning Spring 1988. To request via ILLiad, log in to ILLiad, click on Request a Thesis, and fill out the form.
Although Dissertations & Theses (Proquest) is the most comprehensive source, some schools do not use this Proquest source. Consider other search tools also.
Additional online sources: or WorldCat on FirstSearch
Some databases include information about dissertations in their particular subject areas.
The Center for Research Libraries
The Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NLTD)
OAISTER | OAister via
Finding Australian Theses
Theses Canada Portal
Online Access to full-text of German dissertations
EThOS Electronic Theses Online (British Library - UK)
Swedish University Essays
Many universities have electronic theses searches now, for example: M.I.T. Theses and E-Theses Online, CalTech Thesis, OhioLink ETD Electronic Theses and Dissertations
DART-Europe E-theses Portal


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