Why Can’t I Find Your Ph.D. Thesis on the Internet?

February 26, 2015

A Ph.D. thesis is the climax of a Ph.D. project where several years of studying, reading, thinking, creating new ideas and knowledge – and a lot of hard work! – is collected into a single, coherent document that puts all of the efforts and contributions into a scientific context and form.

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham www.phdcomics.com

Writing the Ph.D. thesis is – I’ve heard, I’m soon to write my own – a daunting task that requires a lot of time and energy, and it can probably feel like running a mental and scientific marathon – even though one shouldn’t forget that it’s a Ph.D., not a Nobel Prize.

In research, details that don’t mean anything in the big picture, but that are essential in practice, are often left out of journal papers, probably because they are not sexy enough to tell the “good story”. As a consequence, these details are often not properly reported in the scientific literature, and the Ph.D. thesis is thus an ideal place to include and discuss them. This renders Ph.D. theses an important addition to the primary scientific literature, journal papers.

And this also makes it tremendously important that Ph.D. theses can be found and are freely available on the Internet.

I recently needed someone’s Ph.D. thesis in connection with my Ph.D. work and a couple of papers where the aforementioned details were not included. From my first request, initially to the university – that was unable to provide me with the thesis – and next to the author of the thesis, it took 2,5 months before I finally received it. I, and most other people, don’t sit and wait for 2,5 months to proceed, so while I was still interested in the thesis, it was of less importance when I finally received it.

Some universities – including my own – have publication databases where publication data and publications, such as Ph.D. theses, are available, and others don’t. But whether your university makes your Ph.D. thesis freely available or not, your hard work and results deserve to be readily available on the Internet.

Therefore, please put it on your homepage, create a Google site to put it on, upload it on arXiv or make it available somewhere else. There is so much good stuff in Ph.D. theses that merits to be read and appreciated.

So if it isn’t already available, Why Can’t I Find Your Ph.D. Thesis on the Internet?

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