2 May 2014

Open Access theses and Research@StAndrews:FullText : a personal view

Even as a student studying towards a degree in Librarianship, there are still many services libraries offer which I never learned about at university. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to do a work placement at the University of St Andrews Library as part of the Digital Repository and Open Access team which opened my eyes to just how vital Open Access and the digital accessibility of research theses can be for the academic community and the exchange and creation of ideas.

Open Access – the free access to research publications – has become a central part of academic research practice. The free access to research publications is, however, not limited to journal articles, book chapters, and conference contributions, but includes free access to postgraduate theses as well. 

At St Andrews, postgraduate theses from a wide variety of subjects can be downloaded from the university’s institutional repository Research@StAndrews:FullText – it’s quick, it’s available to everybody, and it’s free!

In the repository, you will find theses from physics and astronomy to mediaeval history, theses published this year and theses published back in the 1950s – one thesis submitted in 1983 has proved particularly popular and has been downloaded 12 times in the week after its full text was uploaded into the repository.

Imagine your thesis being still highly sought after several decades after you wrote and submitted it – if you’ve always dreamt of your dissertation being read by dozens of interested students and researchers, allowing your postgraduate thesis to be uploaded into the institutional repository might help you make this dream come true! 

Using our institutional repository benefits both those interested in a particular topic and the authors of the postgraduate theses. Readers gain free access to a hitherto largely unused resource of hundreds of postgraduate theses which they can use as inspiration for their own research, while authors are given the opportunity to reach a larger audience, thus raising the awareness of their research. 

Even theses written many years or decades ago at St Andrews could be of great interest today. This is evidenced by the fact that we recently have received requests from EThOS, the British Library’s UK-wide service for the digitisation of PhD theses, to provide them with theses from every decade since the 1950s. (To me, it was absolutely astonishing to see that theses written back in the day of my parents’ time at university were still read today. I finally have proof that they were wrong when they claimed that “nobody apart from your supervisor will ever read your thesis”!)

If you have written a postgraduate research thesis at St Andrews prior to 2007 and would like your thesis to be electronically available in the repository, please get in touch. With your permission, we will be able to digitise your thesis and make it available to others – you never know what brilliant research your thesis might inspire!

Maja Gusavac
(Guest blogger)

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