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Theses, dissertations to go electronic

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 22 - February 29, 1996

The Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies (CGSP) approved a policy last Wednesday (2-21) requiring electronic submission of thesis and dissertations effective Jan. 1, 1997.

The commission's proposal carried recommendations for implementation, including an oversight committee made up of members of the University Computing and Communications Resources Committee, CGSP, Graduate Student Assembly, and library staff. The committee, which is advisory to the dean of the Graduate School, is charged with seeing that the transition does not impose a significant burden on departments in terms of financial and time requirements, that students are notified of the requirement, that training is provided to students, faculty and staff members, and that students can find the how-to information quickly.

Presently, some 300 dissertations and 1,000 theses are submitted to the Graduate School each year. Incentives will be provided to encourage students to begin submitting documents electronically before the January 1 date. The $50 archiving fee will be waived by the library, for example.

Virginia Tech's Graduate School has Acrobat software that will allow documents to be converted to PDF files that can be received by different computer platforms and operating systems. Electronic dissertations and theses (EDT) will be forwarded to the library and made available on the World Wide Web, and thus "be much more useful to scholars" than print documents, said John Eaton, associate provost for graduate studies.

He adds that "for students, the electronic dissertation can be easier to prepare, more error-free, less expensive, and more flexible in format. It can also allow more creativity on the part of the author by permitting inclusion of hypertext links and, soon, digital audio and video recordings.

"Documents prepared and published electronically will be fully word-searchable and will therefore become much more accessible to scholars," Eaton says.

The proposal also recommends that conversion to EDT be widely publicized, and that "Some theses/dissertations may be in a form that is not suitable for conversion to electronic format and should be exempted from this requirement. Decisions concerning exemption shall be made on a case-by-case basis by the Graduate School."