Digital Libraraies Dissertation

Many or most uses of images, quotations, and other materials in a thesis or dissertation would be fair use (please see the tab on Fair Use Basics for more information), but you cannot assume that an academic purpose automatically guarantees fair use. The key questions are basically: How are you using it? and Are you using an appropriate amount?

At one end of the spectrum, imagine a short quotation, or an image reproduced at a viewing-friendly (but not reproduction-friendly) resolution, and a dissertation that discusses and critiques that image or quotation. The writer is using the material to make a particular point important to their scholarship, and adding to academic discourse on the subject. No one is going to use the dissertation as a substitute for the original work. Few or no copyright owners would object to this type of use as a fair use, requiring no permission, and it is hard to imagine a successful challenge if they did. The analysis generally changes little for dissertations on the internet; you may want to consider whether you have included, for example, so many things from the same creator or at such a high quality that people would download a copy of your dissertation rather than buying a copy of the work.

On the other end of the spectrum, imagine a writer who wants to discuss one paragraph of another writer's work, but quotes ten pages that are not discussed. Imagine a writer who includes several images from a particular artist, in a format that shows more detail than a user needs to understand the writer's text, or is suitable for poster printing. Even though the writer is creating scholarship and has a noncommercial purpose, the amount used is more than is appropriate.

Many uses will fall somewhere between these two extremes, but in our experience most students writing a dissertation will fall closer to the first case. The nature of a thesis is that most external content is included because the author is making a point about it. Various guidelines exist to help evaluate different kinds of uses in the context of theses and dissertations, such as these from Proquest/UMI. 

Connect to ProQuest Digital Dissertations

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (formerly known as Digital Dissertations) allows users to search for dissertations and theses from over 1,000 North American and European universities.

Titles from the Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions published 1997 to present are available without charge to current U of M students, staff, and faculty. You can check the "Limit to: Full text" box inside Proquest Digital Dissertations. Alternatively, you can choose to search "Dissertations & Theses @ CIC Institutions" in the "Databases" menu. Please note that very recent U of M dissertations may not appear in ProQuest until several weeks after the MNCAT record for the thesis appears. For dissertations from other institutions, the first twenty-four pages can be displayed free of charge.

How can I get a dissertation we don't have in full text?

First, quickly check tools like Google Scholar or Google (e.g. copy and paste the title in quotes). More recent dissertations may be available through institutional open repositories. 

You can request a loan of a dissertation by using the University Libraries Interlibrary Loan Web form or WorldCat.

Using Proquest Digital Dissertations

  1. Find the item in Proquest Digital Dissertations
  2. From the Interlibrary Loan page, click on Thesis.
  3. Fill out the form. Include the Digital Dissertations publication number (AAT...)
  4. Click Submit Request. Note: In most cases, only the granting institution holds a copy of the dissertation. If the item is on the shelf, print dissertations held at a Big Ten Library will arrive within about a week. If the item is held elsewhere, it may take two weeks. You will be notified if the material does not circulate or if it is already checked out. 

Using WorldCat

  1. Search by author, title, or keyword
  2. Click on "Request via Interlibrary Loan/ILLiad"
  3. Log in and submit Request. 

Purchasing options:

  • via Proquest Digital Dissertations: after you locate the citation, use the OrderNow function. Prices vary depending upon format.
  • via Dissertation Express (for individual researchers): http://disexpress.umi.com/
  • directly from UMI Dissertation Hotline, call 800-521-3042

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