Finding UK theses
Although theses are unpublished works, they represent a piece of original research on a specific subject, and may prove useful to your research. You also don’t want to write about topics that have already been covered by others!
Indicate PhD theses in your reference list as ‘Unpublished doctoral dissertation’ followed by the name of the university, the location and country.
- Index to Theses contains over 550,000 theses, some of which include abstracts.
- The theses come from UK and Irish universities, and search results are always linked to the university that holds the thesis.
- Theses range from the early 17th century to the present.
- You can search by keywords, by university or by subject area. There is also a more complex search option for advanced users.
EThOS offers a single point of access where researchers from any country can access all UK theses online. However, theses that are traced through EThOS may not always be downloadable for free. In that case, you will need to:
- contact the library that holds the thesis, and arrange a visit to read the thesis in person
- request a copy to be digitised for free
- request a copy to be digitised at your own cost
Be aware that some authors or their institutions may have put restrictions on digitisation of theses, and you might be denied a download option. Similarly, it is often not allowed to photocopy any part of a thesis. So if you are planning on visiting another library to consult a thesis, be prepared to spend time reading through the thesis, or parts of it. Finally, digitisation may take some time, so don’t wait till the last minute.
Warwick is a member of a number of schemes which allow you to access other university libraries. SCONUL access is the main scheme, and there is a list of participating libraries on the SCONUL access website. In order to use other libraries via this scheme, you need to apply for a SCONUL Access card, which will remain valid until the end of your PhD or research contract. You can pick the application form up at Library reception, or download it.
You can borrow books with SCONUL access, although borrowing rights vary, so always check the library's website before you visit. Generally you can borrow only a small number of books, and you may not be able to take out DVDs. Note also that SCONUL doesn’t always give you access to electronic files.
The British Library is, of course, the best resource for academics both in and outside the UK. It holds the most extensive collection of books, journals and other sources, is centrally located, and easily accessible. There are a few things you must observe if you’re planning a visit:
- To register for a free British Library Reader Pass you will need to bring ID and proof of address ( bank statement or a bill), and possibly a student card.
- You will also need to give details of an item you need to consult. If you don’t have anything specific in mind at the moment of registration, just make something up!
- Book your material in advance: since most items are located at other universities or depositories, it may take up to two days for the material to be ready.
- When you book items online, you will have to indicate the reading room where you want to consult them (for example, Humanities 1 or Social Science), as well as a seat number. Make a note of these, although you will probably change your seat number when you get there. Make sure, though, you give the library staff the right seat number when you pick up the book.
- Try to get there early in the morning: the reading rooms are very busy and if you can’t find a seat, you may not be able to consult the material.
- Only pencils are allowed in the reading rooms, and no food and drink. You will be checked every time you enter and exit the rooms, so don’t try to be clever!
Note that you can never borrow books, and photocopying is very expensive: 22p per A4 page, and you cannot photocopy two (smaller) pages in one go! So take plenty of time to consult the material, and - again - get there early.
Warwick University holds all successfully submitted higher research theses at the Modern Records Centre (MRC). To find a thesis just use the Library Catalogue, but select Warwick theses in the Collections box on the right. You will not be able to request any theses online, though, so you’ll need to email the MRC and make an appointment for consultation. The MRC is located at the other side of the Library building.
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Andrea Hajek received her doctorate in Italian with a dissertation on the public memory of an Italian student movement of the late 1970s. She is the senior editorial assistant for the Sage journal of Memory Studies.
About the author...
Andrea Hajek received her doctorate in Italian with a dissertation on the public memory of an Italian student movement of the late 1970s. She is the senior editorial assistant for the Sage journal of Memory Studies. More…